American singer-songwriter Sarah Jaffe tackled grief on a surprisingly sparse set of companion EPs, This is Better, Pt. 1 and This Is Better, Pt. 2, out July 19 on Kirtland Records. The pair of releases is less folky and more electronic, but their combined seven tracks are still surprisingly intimate as Jaffe delves into grief and overcoming it. The lack of instrumentation leaves room for intimacy, though at times the music embodies the feelings of dissociation and being lost that often accompany the first few stages of grief.
Opening This is Better, Pt. 1, “Blame It” features primarily a sharp, crisp drumbeat behind Jaffe’s smooth vocals, and though the track slowly adds layers throughout, it remains a dreamy electronic track as Jaffe sings, “Blame it on a fool.”
The rest of Pt. 1 is spacey, featuring cool, dark sounds on its final two tracks, and while Jaffe’s distress is almost palpable as she sings, “Stay away from me/Dark energy,” on “Dark Energy,” it feels like there’s more negative space to the song than actually exists. It’s an eerie feeling, and it’s one that “LAY LOW (TAKE CARE)” carries through to the end of the first EP as layers of bouncing and popping and snapping sounds sit just beneath Jaffe’s smoky vocals.
This is Better, Pt. 2 takes a less sharp approach, though it is still intricate and thoughtful. However, the first three of the four tracks feel almost dissociative in their sporadic sounds; “Shift” uses this effect to create a jarring feeling of being lost. Though “Shift” is melodic and eventually adds layers of sound to feel richer, the echoing vocals, warping synth and occasional electronic interruption breed something close to panic as Jaffe softly sings, “I keep moving/I keep moving/I can’t stop.”
After moving through panic and loss, the final track, “It Can Only Get Better,” provides a natural conclusion to Pt. 2: it builds from that dissociative sound of the previous tracks, taking a repetitive water drip and building into something fuller as Jaffe sings about acceptance and moving on (“I’m seeing colors/I’m having vivid dreams/And I know for sure/For sure/It can only get better”). The music itself is upbeat and electronic, and everything about the track indicates that Jaffe is finally free.
Though intense, the EPs make a near-perfect pair as they move through the stages of grief, and though they can be enjoyed separately, the experience is completed when listening to both together; check out both EPs on all digital music platforms and stream This is Better, Pt. 1 and This is Better, Pt. 2 via Spotify below.