Today, Dallas singer-songwriter Sarah Jaffe releases This Is Better Part 1 & This Is Better Part 2, a duo of EPs shaped by heartbreak and a newfound partnership with the local producer Aaron Kelley. The two met and creatively clicked while making music for Augustine Frizzell’s 2018 film Never Goin’ Back. They kept working as Kelley searched for someone to write a song over his beats. It turned out, he was looking for Jaffe. She went into the process planning to pitch the songs to other artists, but, as they started to come together, the writing was distinctly her own. It was like a journal documenting her post-break up healing and the uncertain period that followed. It was something too personal to give away.
“We all have our ways of processing, and my process is very external for the most part. Going through that whole period of time was so awful, but I was so grateful that I have great friends and family … and unbelievably grateful to be able to process through something that is spiritually lucrative, and, hopefully, eventually lucrative to a bank account as well,” she says. “Music was really, once again, a life vest in more ways than one, I think.”
The sound is decidedly more downbeat and a little somber compared to her last album, 2017’s synth pop-filled Bad Baby. You can hear bits of Jaffe’s folksy roots in her ethereal vocals, which are layered over modern, bedroom pop beats.
It was going to be just one EP, but she said she and Kelley worked so quickly and organically that Jaffe had already written new songs by the time Part 1 was complete. Now, they’ve continued plugging along and have another slate of songs in the works.
“I think something really great for me, something that really resonates, is going into his studio two to three times a week, and going in and creating for the sake of really enjoying it and seeing if we can make something really cool. So going into the studio with that intent has been really great,” she says. “He’s like-minded and we work really quick together. We don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about a song once it’s done. If I’m digging on something and he’s digging on something, we don’t question it.”
The first part of This Is Better tackles the break up, while the second is about acceptance, self care, and getting her mind right. Jaffe hits her stride in “Lay Low (Take Care),” the final song on Part 1, a refreshingly honest pop number with the perfect amount of gloom. The same mood carries into the final track of the lot, “It Can Only Get Better.”
“When you listen to modern pop songs, there’s a lot of, like, ‘you can do it,’ and I just wasn’t in a position to take those songs seriously. But I think people who have really been through some shit take those songs to heart,” she says. “There’s a reason that those phrases exist, you just cling to those. And it’s a positive way and that’s what your higher self would want. It’s very sentimental and precious, all things that people might roll their eyes at … but I’m at a very open and non judgmental place in music, and I’m in a hopeful place.”
Jaffe’s version of uplifting pop is not something to roll your eyes at. It’s lovely but not too sweet, not too serious. It feels real.
When I ask if she plans to continue in this smoky bedroom pop direction, she gives an answer that’s as uncertainly optimistic as her new music.
“As far as a direction that I’m going–girl, I wish I knew,” she chuckles. “But I think that’s exactly the point of this EP–that it was created from the sheer enjoyment of making something.”