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Sarah Jaffe has taken a huge creative step from her first album with her new release, The Body Wins. Her 2010 album, Suburban Nature, was a nicely composed album that relied mostly on guitar melodies, but it lacked something, as do many singer-songwriters’ first bout. Her sophomore album is a much more interesting, well-rounded set of songs that doesn’t rely on guitar, but uses multitudes of instruments and grabs influences from many genres. Jaffe hails from Denton, Texas, and the album is produced by fellow Texan John Congleton (who has worked extensively with St. Vincent). Congleton also produced Jaffe’s first album and two EPs.
The album begins with swelling strings and Jaffe singing calmly through the short, slow song “Paul.” Jaffe’s voice sounds strikingly similar to Regina Spektor’s at points in this song. Many songs on the album flow into each other, as “Paul” does into “The Body Wins.” You probably wouldn’t even notice it was a different song unless you were staring at the track number, waiting for it to change. “The Body Wins” slides into choruses of horns and a hip-hop beat which can be heard on many songs in the album. Jaffe notes hip-hop and rap as major influences and was able to express that much more than on her previous album. “Glorified High” is another song greatly influenced by hip-hop, with a heavy beat and bass line. These songs also beg comparison to Norah Jones’ new hit ”Happy Pills,” also heavily influenced by hip-hop.
The middle third of the album has a slightly different sound. Its softer, slower, and features more instrumentation than hip-hop beats. “Hooray for Love” is one of these darker songs. The song sounds nothing like what the title would make you believe; it’s a brooding song with lyrics like, “Hooray for love/I’m looking up/I’m looking up, but the sky is deceiving.” Jaffe takes a longing look back at the past in “Foggy Field,” where she ponders opportunities; “sometimes second chances haunt me/In a moment, in a dream.”
Towards the end of the album the beats and heavy bass pick back up again in an exciting and high energy song called “Talk.” The album closes out with “When You Rest,” which takes many subtle and slight changes through it. A hand-clap beat and wiggly bass slowly give way to sweeping violins. The song has a long outro, which serves as a very nice bookend to the album.
If you enjoy listening to The Body Wins, you should check out Jaffe’s 2011 EP, The Way Sound Leaves the Room, which features a Drake cover as well as a cover of Cold War Kids.