It’s not a huge stretch to say that 2010 was the Year of Sarah Jaffe: big name tours, an incredible live performance at the Wyly, and enough play time on KXT to make Ray Lamontagne blush. (Token KXT dig in every article? Check.) Her debut album, Suburban Nature, got a huge amount of press coverage and accolades, but as we all know (unless you’ve had a few too many shots of tequila…) it’s now 2011, and Sarah Jaffe’s not giving up on this year yet.
“The Way Sound Leaves A Room” is a placeholder of sorts, designed to give you a look at the next evolution of Sarah Jaffe and to fill the space between Suburban Nature and her next album. The 8 song EP features 2 covers, 5 demo tracks and an alternative version of her breakout single “Clementine.”
This Sarah Jaffe is different from the folky girl we heard on Suburban Nature. The instrumentation is more intricate (an influence from tour buddies Midlake, perhaps?) and the sound is more refined. The 5 new tracks showcase Jaffe’s haunting voice and musical talents in a way that might not be better than her other tracks… just different. On tracks 4-6, “Better Than Nothing,” “The Way Sound Leaves a Room,” and “When You Rest” respectively, there’s less of an emphasis on Jaffe’s lyrics than her vocals and melodies.
My favorite track on the album is “A Sucker For Your Marketing,” which finds a place to walk in the Jaffe we knew before and the Jaffe we’re growing to love now. More upbeat than the other tracks on the album, it takes a step back with more of a focus on the lyrics and the story, but still shows Jaffe’s new approach to instrumentation. For the album, she picked up a drum set and a bass guitar and wrote this track in one day – something her press writeup says “belies Jaffe’s inexperience with her new instruments.” – I heartily disagree. If this is her first stab at playing the drums and the bass, I’m sure there are thousands of indie bands out there who would gladly bring her onboard – just to play those.
The two covers on the album, Drake’s “Shut It Down” (gasp! cursing!) and Cold War Kids’ “Louder Than Ever” are even better examples of where Jaffe’s going next. Taking a Drake song and turning it into a melodic, almost wistful tune? That takes skill.
The EP also includes a DVD documentary of Jaffe’s performance at the Wyly Theater, filmed from the perspective of filmmaker Jon Todd Collins.
A placeholder this may be, but it’s not to be overlooked. Jaffe is back, and she’s taking 2011 by storm.