On Sarah Jaffe

It’s remarkable how much context can influence taste and perception. Sarah Jaffe’s single “Clementine” has received pretty heavy rotation on the local college radio station. But since I mostly heard the song in my car while stuck in traffic, it was, to me, just another overly played indie hit of sorts. Once I listened to Jaffe’s debut album Suburban Nature in full, however “Clementine” took on a whole new sound, meaning, and specificity.

The whole of Suburban Nature has an autumnal quality to it, rounded out by Jaffe’s not overly feminine vocals and moody melodies. But that’s not to say that her music is somber. The album has a darkness to it that is hard to capture in words; not quite melancholic nor angst-ridden, Jaffe’s debut album has an indefinable dark beauty, a harder edge to her sound that I’ve found all too alluring. Though her sound is reminiscent of the broodingly simple songs of Jessica Lea Mayfield, Jaffe’s music has a more full and appealing richness to it.

I have been so taken with Jaffe’s debut release from back in 2010 that I’ve barely even touched on the more recent portions of her impressive catalog. I’m currently too preoccupied with all the gems on Suburban Nature to explore any other Jaffe tunes.

“Before You Go” was a great selection for the opening track slot – its anthemic, pulsing beat, though relatively upbeat, sets the tone for the entirety of the forthcoming album. And we get of taste of Jaffe’s talent as a lyricist right from the first verse of this 16-line song: My heart pretends/not to know how it ends/yes, hello self-esteem/we shall finally be free.

A few tracks later comes “Clementine,” a melodious tune that swells into beautiful, catchy, and perfectly dance-able indie pop. It’s a heavy rotation favorite for me – the kind of song I listen to on repeat, the soundtrack to housework and impromptu dance sessions. Content and sound are delightfully fused in this one – the very sound of the song evokes just those feelings induced by the lyrics. It’s a pretty perfect song in my book and I have yet to grow tired of listening to it endlessly.

“Summer Begs” highlights the more feminine side of Jaffe’s sound, as well as her talent for penning wonderfully unpredictable melodies.

It took me a while to discover “Watch Me Fall Apart” as it comes so close to the end of the album – I was caught up repeating earlier tracks before allowing myself to even take a first listen to this most fast-paced, folksy song. It’s probably one of the more widely accessible songs on Suburban Nature, but that’s not to say it isn’t emotionally driven and raw.

If you need further evidence of how completely smitten I am with Sarah Jaffe, I actually purchased a copy of this CD. I don’t have an ipod or any other means of listening to music digitally in my car and this is an album that yearns for some drive time. So I caved and actually purchased a physical CD, something I have not done for more years than I can count. And that fact alone has got to mean something.


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