October 1, 2014

Music: Sarah Jaffe Stays Connected

 

Indie artist combines high tech sound with bared soul.

Listening to Sarah Jaffe’s third album, it’s hard to correlate the artist who released Suburban Nature in 2010 as the same artist who has just released Don’t Disconnect. In addition to a welcomed change in sound, Jaffe remains a talented singer-songwriter whose sonic palette is ever expanding.

Don’t Disconnect is definitively and proudly a pop record. While the term is anachronistic and mostly pejorative because of the process, Jaffe makes the genre her own. Given the artist’s earlier folk releases and recent collaboration work by McKenzie Smith, this album obviously has a manicured quality. This is also meant in the nicest and most organic of terms. Unlike Rihanna or Beyoncé who cherry pick choice cuts from hit makers Dr. Luke or Max Martin, this album is a construction of Jaffe’s own. There may be beats and synthy bass lines but it’s through the funnel of Jaffe’s personal style leaving Don’t Disconnect to be a valiant construction and not a cash-cow fabrication.

Produced by Midlake’s McKenzie Smith, the drummer emphasizes sounds and textures that leave Jaffe’s soft vocals at the forefront. The emotional warmth contrasting against the scope and textures add a heightened depth of emotion that her acoustic work does not convey. Not trying to directly cop anyone’s style, Jaffe and Smith make beautiful underrated music that’s more than refreshing.

“Ride it out” starts the record on point combining poppy choruses with slithering bass lines that are ripe for cardio workouts. Other songs like “Leaving the Planet,” “Either way,” and “Some People Will Tell You,” channel Talking Heads, Tegan and Sara, and LCD Soundsystem while “Fatalist” and “Revelation” refer back to the aforementioned earlier, more acoustic based work. “Lover Girl” and “Slow Pour” certainly are lulls where Jaffe spends too much time getting lost in the beat and soundscape. These songs reflect more the artist swinging and missing rather than the going-to-pop route and adding filler.

The title track serves as proper blending of the hits and misses to create a stark, lush and intense standout track

You won’t find Don’t Disconnect on shelves or in commercials hawking cars. Dig deep in iTunes and Amazon for one of the year’s best albums.