New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Review: Del Water Gap’s ‘I Miss You Already + I Haven’t Left Yet’ redefines longing

NYU alum Samuel Holden Jaffe’s newest album is a refreshingly honest exploration of the human psyche.
(Courtesy of Erica Snyder)

Content warning: This article contains mentions of suicide and addiction.

Del Water Gap’s sophomore album “I Miss You Already + I Haven’t Left Yet” makes vulnerability seem comforting. Two years after releasing their debut, Del Water Gap’s latest record is an introspective look at pining and personal struggle.

Del Water Gap is the name of Samuel Holden Jaffe’s now-solo project. The Brooklyn-based NYU alum brought his band to college when he began studying at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. Fellow classmate and now critically acclaimed pop star Maggie Rogers was an early member of the band. Del Water Gap has opened for Rogers on tour several times, and has been credited as a co-writer and producer on two songs from her recent album, “Surrender.”

Since 2015, Jaffe has released two studio albums, one live album and a number of singles and EPs as Del Water Gap — incorporating his friends on many tracks, such as “Quilt of Steam” co-written by Arlo Parks, and “Gone In Seconds” featuring Clairo on clarinet.

“I Miss You Already + I Haven’t Left Yet” gets its name from Jaffe’s grandparents. In a note to his grandmother addressed “Dearest Pat,” his grandfather included the poem “This Is Just To Say,” by William Carlos Williams. He signed the note, “Love David. I miss you already + I haven’t left yet.” 

The album title’s sentiment of longing is undoubtedly the clearest theme throughout the record. There is a yearning for peace, old relationships, past identities and an unbearable ache to become someone better.

The album grapples with heavy themes such as sobriety and a struggle with bad habits. This project was born out of a time of personal struggle for Jaffe. He opened up about addiction in a recent Instagram post about the new album, writing, “I kicked an addiction & got a second chance at a life in music after deciding I couldn’t do this anymore … I’m happy this story didn’t end when it could’ve.”

The back-and-forth tension between wanting to quit and pushing forward is present in many of the songs. In “Coping on Unemployment,” he writes about a conversation he has with a girl who says, “ ‘I think your music got worse’ / ‘Since you went fully sober, at least now you won’t kill yourself’ / (You need to get some help.)”

“Want It All,” is one of his most vulnerable songs yet. In the lyrics, Jaffe admits, “Thinkin’ ‘bout killin’ myself all the time / Ain’t too good for business / Ain’t good for this headache / Ain’t good for my mind.” The catchy tracks are rooted in harrowing lyrics — writing that is both personal and extremely honest. He can cite a specific conversation he had in a way that makes the track feel relatable, like a conversation any of us may have had in our own lives.

One of the strongest parts of Del Water Gap’s music is its commitment to building scenes and creating an aesthetic world with lyrics. Songs like “Gemini” and “Beach House” showcase this best, as they set the scenes of parties and lean on specific conversations. “Gemini” does this most explicitly, opening with the line, “So here’s the setting, we met fucked up at a wedding.” “Beach House” focuses more on pulling out a feeling based on snapshots of singular images, “The hotel room where I camped out / Blurry tattoos, the highway sounds / Run with no shoes, I cave in now.”

In a recent Vogue interview, Jaffe shared that Del Water Gap “has always been about world-building as much as it is about writing songs and putting out music,” explaining that he’s always been “interested in aesthetics and art.” This attention to the aesthetics of his persona as Del Water Gap is evident in the songwriting, and it brings Jaffe’s new album into a highly curated sonic and visual world. 

The production, done predominantly by Jaffe and Sammy Witte, makes it easy to feel like you exist in one of the hazy New York nights he is singing about. 

Much like their debut, “I Miss You Already + I Haven’t Left Yet” distinguishes itself from other indie-pop albums with its thoughtful contortion and manipulation of vocals. It uses Jaffe’s smooth voice like glue, pulling it apart and piecing it together to create a consistent and synthetic sound. 

“I Miss You Already + I Haven’t Left Yet” isn’t interested in sweating it out on a dance floor. This is an album for the final hours of a rooftop party, or for staring at the ceiling of a hotel room alone and introspecting. It is an admirable feat of self-discovery, while also an insightful contemplation on the stains that the conversations and relationships we have with each other leave behind. 

Del Water Gap’s Fall tour will come to New York on Oct. 21 at Brooklyn Steel.

Contact Eliana Brown at [email protected].

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