Sarah Jaffe

The Body Wins

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With 2012's The Body Wins, Sarah Jaffe continues a move that started on her covers and demos EP, The Way Sound Leaves a Room, away from her acoustic folk beginnings into denser, semi-programmed indie rock. Working again with Suburban Nature producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, the Polyphonic Spree), the transformation includes expanded instrumentation representing all sections of the orchestra, as well as electronic drums and synths. The album doesn't fully commit to a more mechanical sound but rather shifts in and out of electronic and acoustic gears. The orchestral, aria-like opener "Paul" sets an expressive, organic tone before the title track kicks in with rhythmic brass, drums, and gurgling, warbling noise effects. The Goldfrapp-ish "Glorified High" punches still harder with bleeps, programmed drums, and distorted, bottomless bass. Ballads like "Foggy Field" and the woodwinds-piano lament "Fangs" balance such tracks and keep the album anchored to an overriding authenticity -- as do Jaffe's smoky, burdened vocal quality, unfluffy lyrics ("At the end of every kiss there's a war"), and continued reliance on songwriting, not party anthems, even on the clubbiest tracks. The result is spasmodic, but raw and substantial. Jaffe has always had a certain attitude and real-world cynicism to her vocals and lyrics, which carries over into the newer sound. For that matter, even the largely acoustic instrumental "Limerence" is in keeping with the afflicted tone. The Body Wins feels like a bit of an experiment in the end; a point of transition that doesn't settle on exactly what it wants to be but is committed to mutation.

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