Photo courtesy of The Ruckus
I moved to the Denton, Texas area about four years ago and was quickly introduced to the local music scene that thrived in Dallas and Fort Worth’s little neighbor to the north. Fueled by two universities with a strong musical reputation, Denton is known for mint musicianship combined with genre-pushing experimentation. Immediately upon infiltrating the local music scene, I kept hearing Sarah Jaffe’s name pop up in conversation. My first time catching her show a couple years ago had me pretty floored both by her engaging songwriting and a fanbase that was singing along to every tune off her debut EP. During that show, she was primarily previewing songs from Suburban Nature, a disc that gained the upmost acclaim upon its 2011 release especially in the DFW area.
By the time SXSW rolled around last year, I had added a couple more Jaffe gigs to my show-going resume and primarily caught her showcase at the Paste Party to share her sound with my show-going buddy. I was also intrigued by some surprising new songs Jaffe tried out at Denton’s 35 Conferette a week before. This year marked a pretty dramatic change in direction for Jaffe. Gone were the minimalist acoustic tones that defined Suburban Nature, being markedly replaced by both light and heavy electronic instrumentation. Jaffe was in the midst of evolving as an artist around SXSW, so she was an easy pick to recruit for our “12” project. I was also a little biased due to local coverage, as Jaffe has risen from a pretty big deal to a marquee act in Denton area, but I’ve been especially impressed how she’s gained a foothold in the national sphere as well.
The build up to The Way Sound Leaves a Room, an EP meant as bridge between Suburban Nature and her sophomore release due next year, has yielded some highlight coverage throughout the online community. Anchored by covers of Drake & The-Dream and Cold War Kids, Jaffe has joined in with a talented crew of indie-based female singer-songwriters pushing the limits of what was once a genre reserved for more straight-ahead fare. I would best describe 2011 as a transition year for Jaffe. She got some good touring in both with supporting tours with Old 97s and Centro-matic as well as headlining gigs in the DFW area, but most of her time was spent preparing for her next album and going through everyday life. She’s actually turned the promotional machine down a couple notches, going for more of a grassroots approach of gaining a fanbase. I’m hoping next year provides more extensive national touring from Jaffe given how much she has been able to grow locally throughout repeated live appearances.
It’s been great following Jaffe’s musical maturation throughout the last six months, but I have a feeling 2012 will be her breakout year. Her songwriting has improved drastically from an already impressive base. The album she has been recording with John Congleton in recent months is setting up to be a real knockout based on the EP and live previews. I’m sure I’ll continue to see Jaffe more than any other of “The 12” artists; it’s hard to say “no” anytime she’s within an hour drive, which happens every couple of months. From interviews, I get the impression that Jaffe is just starting to realize how good she really is. That confidence should translate next year as she pushes herself further into the music community based on the strength of her songwriting and emotionally moving delivery.