In addition to the music being more nuanced, the album cover is highly stylized; Jaffe is framed from the side, her hair flicked skyward. The colors are muted, earthy. Compare that with the cover of Suburban Nature: Jaffe, quadruple-exposed, sitting in what looks like a living room. Possibly it's summer, and the album is filled with songs she wrote in high school, possibly within those walls.

Jaffe grew up in Red Oak, just north of Waxahachie. She attended and sang in a Baptist church. Like many brought up in a church environment, Jaffe doesn't go to church anymore, though she chooses to believe in something higher.

"I hope there's something else there, but sometimes it's just total chaos," she says. "I still have an intense bitterness towards Christianity. I just found it all to be about loopholes. People saying, 'You can't be homosexual, but I'm going to sleep with this person before I'm married.' Why can't you just love people? And I know people I grew up with, who are good Christian people, who do believe in something."

Sarah Jaffe and John Congleton, probably talking about Scorsese.
Dylan Hollingsworth
Sarah Jaffe and John Congleton, probably talking about Scorsese.
Sarah Jaffe: White light/white heat
Dylan Hollingsworth
Sarah Jaffe: White light/white heat


Sarah Jaffe performs on Saturday, May 5, at the Granada Theater.

Suburban Nature and The Body Wins are essentially two different seasons, divided by The Way Sound Leaves a Room, which features Jaffe on the cover in another room/season/guise. It's easy to forget she's only 26, and that in our early 20s, women are often eager to adopt and shed personae quickly. Every artist wants and needs to evolve, and she seemed to realize that almost immediately after Suburban Nature came out. Those were songs she'd written in another lifetime, and though she says she's still proud of them, there's naturally a bit of hesitancy in revisiting them.

Beyond shrugging off that old image, the instrument that was her guide as a teenager became part of the problem too.

"First of all, I couldn't hear the acoustic guitar anymore," she says. "I would try to write with it, and it was just white noise. It was just too familiar." She took up the bass and drums, both instruments she had to learn, as a way to circumvent that noise.

She seems more comfortable with her voice, too, no longer whispering plaintively over ballads, but getting up into a soulful R&B register (the piano-driven "Mannequin Woman," loping slow-jam closer "When You Rest"). Not all of it works, like the archly dramatic "Hooray For Love" or lukewarm club toe-dipper "Talk." Elsewhere, she returns to the subtle lyrics/guitar equation, as on "Foggy Field": "Some memories you will make up, to fill the gaps fate fucked up." For an album called The Body Wins, Jaffe seems to be more in control of her vision.

"My sister always has these off-the-cuff sayings," she explains of her older sister, Jessica. "And we were talking about a year and a half ago about love and how, in a relationship, sometimes it's not enough. And she said, 'The body always wins,' and immediately it was a song title. It applied to so many different things. The body is symbolic, and then the inevitable happens; you romanticize it and battle with it."

Out on tour, where Jaffe wrote many of the songs, she says it's a different sort of muscle memory and disorientation. "Your body gets used to the action of going somewhere, but forgets what its actual purpose is," she adds.

When I randomly run into her later that night at the Slip Inn, we're both dancing to Q-Tip's "Vivrant Thing." I take a picture with her friends and sister. We drink and sing along to early '90s hip-hop and let our bodies do what they want, without worrying about purpose. I see a woman on the verge of something big, but right now she is enjoying being 26, in that way we all deserve to at that age.

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