I should start by acknowledging that Del Water Gap’s self-titled debut album is one of my favorite albums of all time. It’s to this day a perfect, no-skips record to me, which obviously had me and his entire fanbase super excited about this new album, but it also built a lot of expectation, and with that came a little bit of worrying on what we were actually going to get on this release.
And to be honest, when I first listened to I Miss You Already + I Haven’t Left Yet, I was briefly underwhelmed. Holden Jaffe, the name behind the surname, definitely chose the strongest songs as singles, (both “All We Ever Do Is Talk” and “Copying on Unemployment,”) but for the rest of it, I needed a couple of extra listens to warm up to the project. However, I do think this album shows a large amount of growth and development from Holden, and it seems like he really had to dig deep into his emotions to get these songs out. It’s vulnerable and sincere to a sometimes painful point, very on brand for the chronically sad, soft, indie boy that Del Water Gap has been known to be.
Two of the singles, “All We Ever Do Is Talk” and “Losing You,” touch on a subject that’s popular fodder in music: being aware that a relationship is coming to an end. Things get monotonous, arguing and fighting feels pointless and exhausting, and even if you don’t want things to be over, you’re still letting the relationship carry on. “I say dumb shit outta desperation, when the only thing I should be saying is, ‘I’m all wrong and you’re alright.’” Musically, these songs do feel like a continuation of his 2021 LP, still leaning into sounds that can be considered indie pop/rock, but this time slightly more polished, probably thanks to producer Sammy Witte (Harry Styles, Luke Hemmings).
I think that Witte’s touch also inevitably took Holden’s music much more into the pop reign, since that’s where he’s mainly worked in, but it maintains Del Water Gap’s approach to production. “NFU” though, the last promotional single for the project, is probably the one most similar to his older music (likely because he worked with his long-time collaborator Gabe Goodman on it). It seems to me that Holden is moving away from his rock influences and more into–although still alternative–pop, and this song works as a perfect transition between eras.
On “Quilt of Steam” and “We Will Never Be Like Anybody Else” he paired up with alternative maestro Ethan Gruska (Phoebe Bridgers, boygenius). On the first one, Arlo Parks lends her voice for backup vocals for a song about longing and the area in between denial and acceptance in a breakup. Their voices beg for communication, for acknowledgement of something in the relationship being off: “Waiting in the car wonderin’ if you would address it or just leave me hurtin’ quietly,” but still holding onto the little comfort there’s left with the other person, “just hold me till it passes”.
As his music evolves, so is Holden’s lifestyle. In the last couple of years, as his name grew in the music industry, he started to get invited to a myriad of fashion shows and luxury events, a new aspect of his life that aligns perfectly with two particular songs in the album: “Glitter & Honey” and “Gemini.” Although his lyrics have always had a decently explicit sensual imagery to them, the energy is now present in the production and melodies as well. He sounds a lot more liberated and comfortable this time around, as opposed to how he would only show lust towards people he loved in songs like “Ode” and “Lay Down My Arms.” In “Gemini,” we can even hear him experiment with some sort of “fuckboy” era, in a self-aware way though, and it’s honestly a pretty jarring song to hear, but the confidence is reassuring after hearing him suffer through most of his songs.
He returns to his sad boy persona throughout the rest of the album, singing about existential dread, the fear of growing up, and of being alone. Two songs that are very contradicting musically but that are in the same lane thematically are “Doll House” and “Beach House,” which I believe reflect Holden’s agility and range. “Doll House” is by a mile the poppiest track in the album, but it remains agonizing in between the sweet and soft instrumental. “It’s hard enough to be human, and worse when you’re on your own.”
On the other hand, “Beach House” is giving old, very-alternative Twenty One Pilots (and this is a good thing! Huge TØP fan here). It sounds frustrated and heavy, like there is so much going on and this song was not enough to put it all out but it’s trying its best to do so. The feeling of overwhelmingness seems to reach a peak here, like after all the hurt and yearning Holden finally gets to a point of exhaustion and, for a moment, gives up.
Also in a manner of accepting one’s mortality, “Want It All” opens up with a line that made me burst out laughing because of how blunt it is and how, sadly, real it is too: “Thinking ‘bout killing myself all the time ain’t too good for business, ain’t good for this headache, ain’t good for for my mind”. Talking to Vogue ahead of the release, Holden said that this is the most vulnerable song he’s ever written, and I think a lot of fellow SSRI-dependent listeners can probably appreciate the straightforwardness of a song about feeling sort of empty and like we’re wasting time. “I’ve got a funny feeling, it’s not still the beginning of my life”.
Another earnest and candid moment comes up in “Gone In Seconds,” a song that features fellow indie darling Clairo on the clarinet. It again mentions the passing of time (“we don’t get to be young for that long”) and the inevitability of comparing yourself to others (“it’s hard to fathom all the life you gathered before me”). As an NYU graduate, Holden has seen a lot of his peers thrive and others give up, and the difference in timelines naturally make him so aware of where in life he is and where he isn’t. Honestly, this and “Want It All” normalizes mental health struggles and gives the listeners the feeling that they are not alone.
Closing up the entire project, “We Will Never Be Like Anybody Else” took me off guard. I have always struggled to listen to slow music and tend to prefer more upbeat songs, but hearing Holden’s voice so clearly and unprocessed in this made me want to listen to it on loop. It’s an intimate, painfully self-conscious track: “Said you could learn to need me if we take it real slow, you don’t have to keep me if I give you hell, though.” In Del Water Gap’s entire discography, there’s only one song that sounds remotely like this, “Don’t Say Nothing” from his 2019 Don’t Go Dark EP, so it gave me a feeling of closeness and familiarity.
Even with his exponential growth as an artist, with the recognition and unwavering following he’s gained, and the many ways his life has changed in the past few years, he’s still just a guy making some music. A guy with a lot of feelings and a way with words, for sure, but still just a man who is going through it too.
I Miss You Already + I Haven’t Left Yet is out now.