Sarah Jaffe just released her third full-length studio album a handful of days ago. It’s called “Don’t Disconnect” and I don’t want disconnect my ears from it anytime soon. Prior to this album the only song I knew by Jaffe is the oft-played on local radio “Clementine” from her 2010 record “Suburban Nature.” Jaffe also released “The Body Wins” in 2012.
Her sound straddles a range of genres. Her earlier work has a singer-songwriter feel to it whereas “Don’t Disconnect” has been heavily doused in synths and set afire. As for me, I dig it all.
I caught up with Jaffe, 28, from her Dallas home for a cell phone signal challenged but none-the-less colorful conversation about the new record , being out on the road and such. At the time of our chat the album had been out for less than a week and Jaffe’s feeling plenty good about it. “I’m so excited. I couldn’t be more happy about it.” Her touring band is guitarist Robert Gomez, keys player Scott Danbom and drummer Rob Sanchez. Jaffe switches between electric guitar and bass. “We’re a makeshift family. Luckily everyone has an amazing sense of humor which I think is much needed,” said Jaffe.
Although her show at Port City Music Hall marks her first performance in Portland, Jaffe’s actually been here twice before; one for a radio appearance and the other just for the sheer joy of it. “I just went there by myself, It’s beautiful.” I offered no argument.
As for the music, I first wondered about the song “Lover Girl,” which is not only musically mesmerizing but lyrically seductive “Give me one more kiss then I’ll lock our lips, unclench your stubborn fists and I’ll put my hands in the.” What’s more, and what really spun my spurs was the video. Yes, the video. Jaffe told me it was directed by Jason Reimer who based the clip’s concept on Mary Howitt’s poem from the 1800s “The Spider and The Fly.” It’s a cautionary tale of falling into the trap of flattery and meeting your demise, but set in a nightclub and starring a hooded Jaffe and former fashion runway model Jan Strimple. I feasted my eyes on the visually stunning piece more than once.
Then I inquired about the haunting title track, “Don’t Disconnect.” The message is simple : “Pretty soon I’ve got to go. But the sooner I leave the sooner I can come home. Do you still feel me? Don’t Disconnect.” But the delivery pulsates with stark longing in Jaffe’s voice and for five minutes I found myself feeling her pain. Which to me is the hallmark of an excellent song. Jaffe said the story behind the song is about trying to maintain a relationship and how difficult that can be when distance plays a part. “It plays tricks on your mind and on the people you love about care about so it’s just about being apart and trying to fill that gap and feeling the physical pain on being away,” said Jaffe. “Once the song was written it kind of evolved into other meanings as well and I just thought it would make a great title for a record.” I tend to agree with her.
One more tune I had to know about was “Slow Pour.” “Caramel, that’s how you stick to me. Your words are soft and sweet and warm.” Surely the song isn’t about food. Jaffe fessed up. “Being a generally private person I kind of steer away from talking about my sex life but I’m talking about sex in the song.” Jaffe further revealed that the song is about her messing up and someone catching onto her issues. “But mostly it’s about people’s sexual nature and mine in particular,” noted Jaffe.
Before we lost our phone connection for good, I was able to get in one more question, which was who would be a dream collaboration. I told her it could be anyone regardless of whether he or she is still around. Without hesitation, Jaffe offered up Nina Simone. As a huge Simone fan myself I sent a stinging high-five through the phone line. In fact that may have been what severed our connection. ” I just think she’s an incredible performer.”
You can hear for yourself if the same can be said about Jaffe by heading to Port City Music Hall when she opens for Astronautalis.
Astronautalis with Sarah Jaffe, Endless Jags, Trans it. 9 p.m. Wednesday Sept. 10. Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland. $13 in advance; $15 day of show; 18-plus; portcitymusichall.com