In the past decade, few performers in D-FW have been more celebrated than Sarah Jaffe.
The North Texas resident began her career as a folk-singing teen and has continued to evolve her sound beyond the boundaries many envisioned in her earliest days. On Bad Baby, her fourth studio LP, Jaffe and noted producer Matt Pence plug in for a gorgeous set of confident synth-pop.
Jaffe is arguably Dallas' most stylistically diverse musician right now. Next to notable names such as Leon Bridges, St. Vincent, Old 97's, Toadies, Erykah Badu and Polyphonic Spree, those groups haven't traversed the kind of unpredictable sonic path Jaffe has so skillfully navigated. Let's take a look at the different stops along Jaffe's adventurous musical journey.
By the time Jaffe released the acoustic-heavy Suburban Nature, her impressive, 2010 full-length debut, she was a well-known entity here in town. Thanks to her live shows and her 2008 EP Even Born Again, Jaffe didn't seem new; she hit the road like a true pro by touring with Norah Jones while national outlets such as Paste and NPR took notice. "Clementine," the standout track from the new record, became her signature song.
Flipping the switch
Jaffe, indeed, found herself a devoted folk-loving audience, but a case of writer's block helped propel her into a new creative realm. Her second full-length record, 2012's The Body Wins, showcased an exciting, danceable sound that relied much heavier on keys and drums than in the past. "Glorified High," the lead single, was as different as could be from her past work, but it felt wholly comfortable still. In 2013, she would team up with Symbolyc One, a Grammy-honored hip-hop producer who had worked with Kanye West and Jay Z. Forming the Dividends, Jaffe and S1 found themselves collaborating with Eminem and Dr. Dre while also releasing new original music that continued Jaffe's musical expansion.
By confronting her growing sense of impulsive anger and by drawing inspiration from her most creative friends, Jaffe released Don't Disconnect, a stunning study in wide-ranging pop and rock statements. Though many of the songs on the record weren't as pop-friendly or as accessible as her previous work, the vision displayed throughout was a triumph of vulnerability and fearlessness. Trance-like song "Lover Girl" and the minimalist title track stood out as hypnotic signposts of where Jaffe was at that time and where she was going.
Back to the future
Jaffe's new album, the near-perfect Bad Baby, is another winning effort. We find more similarities in sound between this record and the last than with Jaffe's other records, but there's plenty to unpack, still. The spaced-out ambience of "Synthetic Love" feels instantly familiar while the danceable synth-pop title track offers vintage vibes that fans of the music from the Netflix show Stranger Things will surely appreciate. "Bad Baby," specifically, represents Jaffe's most radio-friendly pop song to date; it would blend neatly with cuts from indie bands Naked and Famous or Purity Ring without sacrificing its own unique identity. Bad Baby is another bold step into a path where Jaffe can seemingly take no wrong turns.