The magic of music in the time of COVID

26-year-old+musical+prodigy+Jacob+Collier+brings+layered%2C+inventive+music+to+the+airwaves.+

Samantha Roth

26-year-old musical prodigy Jacob Collier brings layered, inventive music to the airwaves.

In the confusing and often frustrating times we find ourselves in, moments of levity are especially important. We all need time to relax and unwind from the mental stress of our current world. In that spirit comes the most unimportant piece of journalism in this issue: an album review. Why, in these news-heavy times, when every day finds us with a new critical story, is this in the magazine? Because our mental health is important, and music is one of the most powerful tools for escaping stress and processing our emotions. The “Djesse” series has been one such happy moment amidst the terror of a global pandemic and the stupidity of American politics. In that spirit, let’s get to know the remarkable Jacob Collier and his very strange three-album series, a source of inspiration for me and hopefully for you as well.

Music is one of the most powerful tools for escaping stress and processing our emotions”

To discover more of  TKC’s favorite albums, head to thekirkwoodcall.com, where you’ll find Megan Glasgow’s excellent piece “TKC’s Top 11 Music albums.” There, you can browse album recommendations from well-cultured TKC staffers and editors encouraging you to find your own moment of levity in music. For rap fans, or if Collier’s pop-funk madness isn’t your jam, Tom Mueller offers expert musical guidance in his piece “Top 10 Rap Albums of 2020.” Now on to the review. 

Collier, a graduate of Britain’s Royal Academy of Music and a four-time Grammy winner, continues to push boundaries by incorporating complex music theory into a funk and pop-influenced groove. He initially gained celebrity after posting covers of popular songs to YouTube, including Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing.” The young artist’s use of harmony grabbed the attention of legendary jazz pianist and musician Qunicy Jones, who signed Collier to his management company. Jones also introduced the young musician to internationally renowned jazz musician Herbie Hancock, who also became a mentor to Collier. 

In 2018, Collier holed up in his London studio to undertake his most ambitious project to date: the four-Album “Djesse” series. In what he describes as “an ever-expanding multiverse,” Collier focuses each album on exploring a different musical genre. Djesse Vol. 1, released in December 2018, features the Metropole Orkest symphony and several other collaborators including his mother, violinist Suzie Collier. Every track on Djesse vol. 1 is a standout, layering orchestra and choral parts with a youthful, fun energy. Before the album’s world tour, he premiered the album at MIT wearing his signature rainbow crocs alongside musicians dressed in various animal costumes. 

Collier is nothing if not flamboyant, and 2019’s “Djesse vol. 2” is a testament to his wide-ranging musical inspiration and eccentricity. The album draws influences from across the globe, featuring everything from African clay pot drumming to the Celtic fiddle. Collaborators such as JoJo and Dodie lend their voices to an album that’s endlessly complex and interesting, even after listening many times through.  Collier infuses incredible imagination and uniqueness into every track. Standouts include “It Don’t Matter” featuring JoJo, and “Moon River,” which won Collier a Grammy in instrumental arrangement.

Collier performing at the Moers festival in 2016. © Harald Krichel, used under Creative Commons 3.0

The third album, 2020’s “Djesse vol. 3” delights with a glittering, genre-bending 12-song array. Vol. 3 is equally eccentric as the others but with a distinctly more pop-focused feel. Featuring an all-star list of unexpected collaborators including Ty Dolla $ign and Tori Kelly, the album takes a unique perspective on pop music. “Djesse vol. 3” is perhaps the only album where you can find a Bach choral and the sound of dropping anvils on the same song (“Sleeping On My Dreams”). On “Count the People,” a danceable pop rhythm with a bouncy chorus, you’ll find T-Pain and dizzying rap verses from Collier himself. “Running out of Love” brings Tori Kelly’s shimmering vocals and Collier’s trademark harmonies together in the most stunning combo. Every song on “Djesse vol. 3” is a standout, ranging from soft ballads (“He Won’t Hold You”) to heartfelt jams (“Time Alone With You” feat. Daniel Caesar). 

Jacob Collier is a uniquely 21st century musical genius, combining global influences and embracing eccentricity to create a singular, youthful sound. His music showcases the range of human emotions and pushes musical boundaries. Give “Djesse” a listen and prepare to simultaneously be confused, surprised and delighted. The fourth and final volume hasn’t been released, but is sure to bring more amazing jams to our lucky ears.

In these exhausting times, don’t forget to take time to relax and perhaps listen to music. Or not. Maybe running is your thing, or painting. Whatever you choose, remember to take moments of respite and recharge. Keep your head up, and if you need help, reach out. Some community resources are listed below if you need extra support. 

 

BHR Youth Connections Hotline: call 314-628-2929 or text 4HLP to 31658 

Kids Under Twenty One Hotline: 1-888-644-5886

The Trevor Project (LGBTQ Hotline): 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678678

Provident Behavioral Health Crisis Line (low cost/free counseling): 314-647-4357