Born of a bad breakup, Jaffe released a double EP during a release party Tuesday night featuring DJ Hannah Hammond at the Belmont Hotel.
The double EP, dubbed This is Better, features a contemplative, electronic soundscape replete with Jaffe’s self-admonitions, reassurances and memories: the somber but-not-sad, hopeful-but-not-giddy outworking of coming to terms with what she calls a “pretty nightmarish breakup.”
“To be honest, there was a small blip of time where I was like, ‘I don’t even know if I want to release these,’” Jaffe says.
“I didn’t know how I felt about these songs living on and reminding me of it, but that was selfish, and so now what I think I want is for them to serve, yes, as a reminder of that time, but also as a reminder that music once again proved itself to be more meaningful in more ways than I can count.”
Jaffe says music is what kept her head above water during the aftermath of the breakup.
“Music is a really unbelievable connection, especially in this day and age. It’s nice to not feel alone when you’re feeling awful. Music really pulls you out of yourself.
“It pulled me out of myself. There were songs that I was listening to when I wasn’t writing that really pulled me out of myself in that way, and I think my hope for this is, yeah if someone is going through a shitty time, maybe my music will do something.”
"My hope for this is, yeah if someone is going through a shitty time, maybe my music will do something.” — Sarah Jaffe
Jaffe has given much thought to the release of these incredibly personal songs.
“When an artist is really themselves in a song, it’s audible," she says. "If I like the song, nothing really matters …That’s really the takeaway for me. That’s where I have to live. Even though I am desperate to please, I still don’t really compromise that line.”
Jaffe says she started writing the EPs as part of her job as a topliner (someone who writes songs for someone else) for a movie called Never Goin’ Back, by fellow Dallasite and Euphoria director Augustine Frizzell, during the worst of her recovery from the abrupt end of a seven-year relationship. On the film, she met and worked with Dallas-based producer Aaron Kelley. They hit it off immediately, and found they worked well together.
“Everything that I was writing was just really close to home," Jaffe says. "I was also just attached to these songs, so I just told Aaron, ‘I think I want to release these for my own project.’”
The two recorded the three-song Part 1 of This is Better and sent it through post-production, but Jaffe says they were writing and recording so quickly that by the time post-production for Part 1 was done, they had Part 2 ready to go.
“I didn’t necessarily see these songs fitting together on the same EP… It wouldn’t have made sense to me in my head to put the same songs on Part 1 as it would be to marry the two together,” Jaffe says.
“They live very nicely together, but separate.”
Though both parts have the same simmering, compressed dynamic range that sad girl indie-pop (Billie Eilish, Phoebe Bridgers, boygenius) is taking the world by storm with, Part 1 has a slightly louder dynamic than Part 2. These first three ear-pleasing indie-pop songs are about figuring out what happened, picking up the pieces and banishing self-destructive thoughts/tendencies.
“I like marrying things that are used in really sugary, sweet pop with introspective lyrics,” Jaffe says of her soundscape.
While Part 1 is a collection of shimmering indie-pop songs, Part 2 is where Jaffe ties the bow on the end of her relationship. Two of the four songs are meditations on old memories from the relationship that feature a subtle soundscape with Bon Iver-esque vocoder effects and ambient noise interspersed throughout, while the other two songs document Jaffe coming to terms with changing seasons and moving on.
For Jaffe, these songs mark the end of an excruciating chapter in her life. She thinks of them as an homage to music, the love that pulled her through thick and thin and keeps her striving for more.
“We’ve already started making other songs. I’m excited for the songs that are to come… Music has just been fun again,” Jaffe says.
The thought of loosing This is Better to the wild excites Jaffe. She is looking forward to her release show and says she is trying to be relaxed and receptive of how others take her new work. But she is confident of one thing: It can only get better.
Listen to "It Can Only Get Better" below: