Somewhere along the way, while writing material for her fourth studio album, titled “Bad Baby,” Sarah Jaffe reached a conclusion we’ve all at least toyed with from time to time.
“The internet is killing me, slowly but surely,” Jaffe says on “As Ever,” the eighth on the 13-track release from Kirtland Records, which she has been with since 2009. But she assures listeners just one cut later that “I’m not dead yet.”
If that sounds like a slightly jaded sentiment from a singer-songwriter fresh out of her more experimental 20s, there’s good reason. Wipe the nervousness off your brow, because the North Texan delivers her most confident effort to date on “Bad Baby.”
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Sarah Jaffe, who is 31 now, has covered a lot of ground to get from 2010’s “Clementine” to her new record. She’s gone from phenom to fully actualized so quickly, it’s hard to imagine anymore room for reinvention.
But then, Jaffe has built the first part of a career on subverting expectation.
From youthful folk to indie rock to putting vocals over hip-hop production in her collaboration with a Grammy-winning beat-maker, all the musical shoes she’s tried on seem to fit. The sonic groove way of her career has meandered from woman-with-acoustic-guitar to hip-hopstress to rock goddess.
On “Bad Baby,” synth pop with a melodic purpose is where Jaffe lands. From the menacing opening of “Synthetic Love” to the breezy title track and first single, a grinding synth buzz underpins the album, while leaving her trademark musicality intact.
The album is an exploration of more layered arrangements than Jaffe has yet undertaken, and it closes on as much of a high note as it begins. “Freaking Out” and “Hard Act to Follow” move swiftly from lingering angst and apprehension to a certain wisdom and authority that allow Jaffe to see through whimsy and make her point.
Cathy O’Neal, spokeswoman for Arlington’s Levitt Pavilion, told the Star-Telegram that Jaffe would be playing a show there this summer, though the date hasn’t yet to be determined. Keep an eye out on the Levitt’s schedule, or Jaffe’s tour schedule.
☆☆☆☆ (out of five)