Album Review: Begin the Chagrin

David W. Jacobsen, a relatively unknown singer and songwriter, has been steadily putting his music out into the world ever since 1995, when his punk band Silent Bob released their first album. Over 18 released albums, his musical styles have shifted from punk, maturing into a sound that he describes as singer-songwriter folk “mixed with a healthy dose of sarcasm.”

All this musical experience and maturation has resulted in Jacobsen’s most recent work, “Begin the Chagrin,” which was released this past spring.

The album features many different bitter characters, the first of which is found in the opening track “Settle.” The song tells the story of a man distraught over the lack of commitment shown by the woman he loves. Over a backdrop of upbeat guitar and tastefully interjected accordion, the character urges his love to settle and commit to him, as she might find somebody better but it’s not likely.

Another downtrodden character is featured in “Free Bird.” Jacobson’s voice sings the woes of a washed up musician and his band. The style is similar to “Settle,” featuring a driving acoustic guitar with a supporting instrument, in this case a mandolin. Within this song, Jacobson seems to be communicating his own experience of making music for so long with little recognition.

While listening to “Begin the Chagrin,” it quickly becomes apparent that Jacobsen’s true skill is his lyrical storytelling ability. Many of the tracks are inventive with word use and repetitive choruses are far and few between. Though it is communicated through snark and vitriol, the lyrics of “Begin the Chagrin” present a lot of uncomfortable truths about the average life of a fellow down on their luck.

An unfortunate accompaniment to the clever lyrics is much of the music itself. Many of the tunes are stereotypical almost-folk fare, featuring simple vocals and guitar playing from Jacobsen with the occasional extra instrument or backup singer for harmony.

The addition of a new instrument is usually welcome. While it is apparent that Jacobsen is skilled on the guitar, many songs on the album quickly forgo the interesting riffs presented in the intros in order to revert to mindless and repetitive strumming.

Though some amount of musical similarity is to be expected between tracks, the heavy use of only guitar, simple drums and voice becomes tiring to the ears over the 20 songs the album boasts.

One of the final tracks, “You Win,” is less energetic and sarcastic than the rest of the album. The repetitive relentless acoustic found in many of the other tracks is abandoned for more interesting rhythms and a catchy riff that helps convey the main character’s sadness of losing the person he loves to another after a long battle to keep their affection.

Overall, “Begin The Chagrin” has many cleverly snarky things to say about life, but could have presented them in a more attractive way. The guitar, while skillfully played at times, often converts to mindless strumming when the vocals start. However, perhaps this is beneficial as it puts the focus squarely where it belongs: on Jacobsen’s masterful lyrics.

Callahan Jones is a sophomore Journalism major and a writer and web designer for  Cedars. He enjoys progressive metal, jazz, classical, various other kinds of music, and board games.

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