Choke Slamming One Dance: On Jordan Raf’s “Better Now”

Luke Benjamin takes a look at "Better Now," the latest track from LA's Jordan Raf.
By    August 22, 2017

jordan2(crop) - michael faso

Luke Benjamin is wiling away this dystopian summer in Oregon.

If we’re all going to burn into clumps of obsidian nothingness—ashes spread unceremoniously about our geo hell—then we may as well go out drunk and optimistic. One more orgiastic reverie before the oceans start to simmer and we’re eviscerated into unconstituted dust. “Better Now” is the siren song for the prelude, deceptively plaintive despite the seraphic vocal moments.

Jordan Raf is the architect of this pre-apocalyptic fever dream: a 23 year old with a torturous love for Los Angeles and a narcotic history that has funded the collegial dreams of at least four West Hollywood dealers progeny. His music is part-confessional, part-Dada bastardizations of pop and R&B structures, and all really good.

“Better Now” is his latest exercise in hedonism, a homily for escapism and little ecstasies, as if to spite those greater existential concerns that are the essential burdens of being. Jordan’s voice is less obfuscated here than it is through the greater pieces of last year’s Double Negative, exchanging a certain detached abstraction for immediacy. (ed: note: these records were released on POW Recordings. Luke Benjamin was paid 73 mangos, 321 Percocet and $14 Canadian dollars to write this post. The song is still great.)  

There’s a degree of irony that threads through the record; what’s the point of being “Better Now” if we’re all just biding time before a tweet launches us into oblivion? This black humor is one of Jordan Raf’s idiosyncratic tics, along with a sort of Vicodin sentimentality that manifests in a sense of troubled, but sanctified intimacy. If you were to put an image to “Better Now” it’d be a gossamer Aphrodite transposed onto Tod Hackett’s “The Burning of LA,” Nathanael West’s satiric dystopia collaged with passing romance, both collapsing in on one another.

Jordan himself offers a better sketch: “This song is the sonic equivalent of me choke slamming the cultural Frankenstein concoction known as “One Dance,” “A hedonistic anthem…It’s a summer jam before the nuclear winter.”

Crunchy, industrial drums and orchestral harmonies buoy the affective singing, apotheosizing the postmodern decadence of our times. Raf’s writing is spare and unremittingly honest, extracting significant emotion from opiated vignettes: “Too much Adderall start to feel manic / Break the syntax, yeah, skip into semantics”

“Better Now” is gorgeous. It’s intelligent without pretension and precisely the sort of record that you want playing as summer burns out into early Autumn. Kesey might describe it as a “moiling sunset.”

More than this, it’s another brilliant statement from a uniquely compelling human. Jordan Raf is a revelation in a mesh shirt and cropped pants, a more handsome Justin Trudeau with more humane politics, and one of the unsung talents of Los Angeles. Spare him a moment of your time and you’ll make out better for it.