First Impressions: “In My Room” by Jacob Collier

I’m really excited to start off my First Impressions series with this album! I’m always down to listen to new music, so I was stoked when my friend Brian asked me to listen to Jacob Collier’s In My Room. Without further ado, here are my first impressions.

Woke up Today

  • Not sure what the rest of the album is going to sound like, but this is definitely a really free-sounding, expressive opening track that I think makes room for tons of possibilities in the rest of the album.
  • As someone who doesn’t know anything about Jacob Collier, this track for sure introduces him as a really talented, out-of-the-box kind of dreamer who sees his music on lots of different soundscapes.
  • Tons of really great motion and very intentional, interesting choices that I don’t understand and maybe just want to enjoy without thinking too hard about now.
  • Love that he explores harmony and a lot of unconventional sounds/combinations of sounds.

In My Room

  • Super curious to know what his musical background/influences are — very ‘90s boy band-ish low harmonies (think: “I Thought She Knew” by *NSYNC) happening that we don’t hear a lot of in popular music now.
  • Very interesting that he chose to make this the title track… I think you usually imagine someone’s bedroom as a quiet, isolated place where, normally, the only person in the room is the one who owns it, but even though Collier might be the only person in the room, it’s nowhere near quiet. Again, not sure how the rest of the album is going to sound and what effects he’s going to use more than once/what effects are characteristic of his individual sound, but his choice to harmonize ALL of his vocals so far is so fascinating. It makes me feel like even when he’s physically alone, there’s so much going on in his imagination that there’s rarely any stillness or sense of loneliness in his mind.
  • Also, to continue on the idea of Collier’s bedroom — I imagine it’s a deeply personal space and there’s a lot that one might be able to tell about him from just stepping in and looking around. It’s a place where he can truly kick off his shoes and be himself, so I enjoy how much sits on each beat and leans back in this track.

Hideaway

  • Wow, that’s some really pretty guitar.
  • I’m on my 3rd Jacob Collier track ever and my thought is: somehow I feel like this is so unlike what I’ve heard from him — less “edgy”/unconventional sounds” than the other tracks so far — but also so definitively Jacob Collier in that there are little flourishes of random sounds here and there, and a lot of it still feels improvisational.
  • Cool, his first solo vocal without any sort of harmony (starting off the song, at least)!!! I assume this is to fit the content of the song and to make it more romantic/tender/intimate.
  • UM, are these hemiolas happening at 2:21? My brain is so confused and I love it but I hate it and I can’t figure out what is happening rhythmically…so yeah, I guess I take back my last thought at this point in the song but this is fun in an infuriating way.
  • This is so interesting because things feel discombobulated at 2:21, but he incorporates triplets again at 3:25 and everything’s lined up as if it were in 12/8 time.
  • Super cool use of word painting — I was wondering why Collier decided to keep repeating the motif about rain falling, and regardless of why, it’s so cool that he decided to make the plucked string instruments sound almost like the pitter-pattering of rain.
  • Wow, this section at 5:05 is so great. I’d love to know his decisions behind starting the song so personal and then expanding it so much, as if to reveal that his small hideaway isn’t so small after all.

You and I

  • So this is kind of cheating on the first impressions idea because I’m reading more about this song (it was by accident, I promise!), but I looked up the lyrics to this song and found out that it’s an arrangement of a Stevie Wonder song and that it won a Grammy for Best Arrangement, Instrumental, or A Cappella. Nice.
  • His falsetto is so enjoyable to listen to.
  • Absolutely love the deliberate gap at 2:43; in case the listener starts drifting away and is thinking that all of these harmonies melt into each other, it totally wakes the listener up and calls attention back in a really effective way.
  • That run at 3:28 is insanely satisfying, holy moly.

Down the Line

  • I’m a sucker for anything percussion, so I’m already digging this track from the first eight bars.
  • The change from sort of elevator music-type to something completely different at 1:21 and then back to elevator-y at 1:34 is sort of a strange choice — there’s nothing really in the lyrics that suggest such a huge shift in mood.
  • Is that Spanish? Why? It’s a great touch, but why? Who is the “she” in this song and why is she saying these things? I’m so intrigued.
  • It seems that somewhere between 5 and 6 minutes into the song, we’re sort of back where we started, and that makes me think deeper about the lyrics of the song. Where does the “line” end? No matter how many phases of walking down the line we go through, do we always end up back where we were — still just walking down it with no end in sight?

Now and Then I Think About You

  • Whoa, what is happening? Sounds like something from a wacky music video. That also sounds like a guqin playing or something in the first three seconds, but I could be completely wrong.
  • So curious to know where these samples are from — is this people talking?
  • Love the seamless transition into “Saviour”

Saviour

  • I wonder what the instruments that make the sounds in the first 20 seconds or so are.
  • This is a fun song! It definitely feels more straightforward than the other songs so far, but I’m only two minutes in so maybe I’m speaking too soon.
  • That *pop* at 2:09 is so much fun! Love that this song isn’t too serious and you can tell also that the soundscape feels less dense/crowded as opposed to some of the other songs so far.
  • Ah, I spoke too soon (re: 2nd bullet point) — like a lot of his other decisions, I wonder what compelled him to put all these tempo changes in the second half of the song.
  • I enjoy this transition to a capella in the outro even if I don’t know what he’s saying half the time.

Hajanga

  • I have a question and that is: what’s a hajanga?
  • The beginning sounds so summery and amazing.
  • I like how celebratory this feels, from the fast-paced triplets to the hand claps to the lyrics.
  • Ooh moDuLAtIonZ.
  • I love that the lyrics of this song are so inviting and inclusive. It feels almost wrong to not at least tap your foot along.

Flintstones

  • I……..what.
  • I have so many questions.
  • This is really fun reimagining of the theme song but again why (edit: found out that this was a YouTube thing that he did, so like, that’s cool).
  • Ah 0:46 is SO FUN he is a PRODIGY.
  • How….does his mind…..work…….like this……..
  • WOW THAT CHORD AT THE END.

In the Real Early Morning

  • I wasn’t really used to his voice at first because it felt too thick? But wow it’s beautiful.
  • I love how simple this is, and I would imagine you wouldn’t want something super overwhelming and crowded for the “real early morning”.

Don’t You Know

  • This song almost feels like a bustling city somehow.
  • I enjoy how the pockets of quieter moments transition us into really fast, busy sections, like you’re walking through different neighborhoods.
  • YO THIS PERCUSSION PART AT 5:33 IS WILD I LOVE IT.
  • This is an interesting way to end the album; I don’t know why I thought he would end it on a purely a capella section to give it a stronger sense of finality, because this seemed like a very abrupt ending of an improv section spiraling into nowhere (not meant as a bad thing, by the way).

Final Thoughts

In My Room is something way out of my comfort zone, but I’m so glad I was introduced to it. I think I typically enjoy very straightforward-sounding music, with a few fun, more complex details thrown in here and there. I’m definitely challenged to think more outside the box about all the different possibilities I have yet to consider as I write music, and to push past my temptation to stick to four chord progressions all the time. I’m looking forward to hearing what Jacob Collier’s going to release next! I certainly wish him all the best, and a long, fulfilling career.

Side note: I was thinking of this meme throughout all of Collier’s improvisational stuff.