Jacob Metcalf might call Dallas, Texas, home, but for a new song off his forthcoming LP, Fjord, he's "Ein Berliner." With a name nodding to the famous speech JFK delivered to a crowd of West Berliners in the midst of the Cold War, Metcalf's "Ein Berliner" examines the very idea of identity. Metcalf says the song grew out of his fondness for pondering and revering the things he doesn't know. For him, that included thinking about future children and the questions they might ask … and the points at which his children's questions would eclipse his ability to answer them.
"This song draws a scene of bad guys and good guys and poses the question what do 'they' have in common with 'us'? How do you instill love for humanity in a child when there are these horrors facing against you?," he explains. "Calling the bad guys bad doesn't make us any good, and neither does killing all our enemies make the world a better place. The truth is, I don't know what I'd say, and that's kind of what the song is about. "
The song's arrangement occasionally recalls Illinoise-era Sufjan Stevens, with warm horn parts blooming behind a gently picked acoustic guitar. Its strength lies in its quiet intimacy: Metcalf's music is inviting, even as it addresses a thorny subject.