Jacob Collier is a 26 year old musical prodigy. Collier can play basically every instrument and has perfect pitch. Jacob’s pure talent has grabbed the attention of many musical greats across many genres, including Herbie Hancock, Steve Vai, and David Crosby. Collier has finally received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year with his latest album “Djesse Vol. 3”. Is Collier’s latest album as incredible as his talent?
This album is a mixed bag for me. Listening to this album, it sounds like Jacob Collier is doing more to showcase his musical talent than to make great music. Almost every song has great ideas on them, but some of them are over complicated to the point that they sound like a joke.
“Count the People” is easily the most overly complicated track on the album. I enjoy the vocals from Jessie Reyes and the synth-wave instrumental at the beginning of the song, but this song drives itself off of a cliff almost immediately. Jacob comes in with a rap verse, and it sounds really bad. It kills the momentum. The T-Pain feature, while actually really good, is completely out of place and sounds hilariously random in context. This song is the music equivalent to painting the Mona Lisa then drawing stick figures all over it. I like the electronic breakdown near the end, but it’s too little too late to save the song for me.
“In My Bones” has similar problems. I like the drums and the bass, but Jacob’s verses are terrible. I guess this song is funky, but it feels lifeless. Kimbra’s vocals are nice, but it gets constantly interrupted by high concept instrumental motifs. From a music theory perspective, this song has a ton of interesting stuff. From a “does this sound good?” perspective, Jacob constantly kills the mood with random layered harmonies and random instruments. He also raps again. Why? There are some cool moments, but too much fluff. This song could have been twice as good with half as much work.
After a rocky start, the album stabilizes with some decent tracks. I enjoyed the song “All I Need”. Jacob still includes a lot of complicated musical concepts here, but they never get in the way of the nice vibe from the synths this song is built off of. I think the balance between experimentation and sounding good is much better here. This song is super fun with great features. This song is a club song for music theory enthusiasts, and I love it it.
There are also some genuinely incredible interludes here. I love the atmosphere on the track “Butterflies”. The beat is surrounding a cool vocal harmony from Collier. I also like how glitchy and morphed the track gets over time. It feels like the song is going through a black hole. Jacob is able to be experimental and high concept without it sounding terrible.
“Light It Up On Me” is similarly exciting to listen to. I think when Collier goes in an electronic or ambient direction the results are incredibly interesting. This song has incredible sounds throughout.
On a few songs, Jacob unfortunately sounds super boring. The track “Running Outta Love” has a nice bass line in the beginning, but this is another example of Collier confusing “musical complexity” with “fun to listen to”. There are interesting harmonies and complicated instrumental pieces, but it’s so boring.
Jacob Collier does a great job showing his talent here as an instrumentalist and a producer, but he has a lot to work on when it comes to songwriting, lyrics, and emotional impact. I could see Collier making a masterpiece, but he isn’t there yet. I would recommend the highlights here, but I can’t recommend the whole thing.
Favorite Songs: “All I Need”, “Butterflies”, “Light It Up On Me”, “Sleeping On My Dreams”
Least Favorite Song: “Count the People”