Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rachael Yamagata

I've been out of the country twice. Once to Canada in 2007--although, most would dismiss this excursion because my friends and I literally walked over from Niagara Falls. The first time, however, was an Atlantic hopping flight to London, a train to Scotland and a detour to York (the terrorist bombings during the summer of 2005 kept us from heading back to London for several days, causing much stress and strenuous planning on my dad's part).

We made our way to London. One thing my dad was adamant about showing me was Harrods. My dad and I had spent hours perusing every department on every level of this massive consumer complex. $40 t-shirts weren't exactly in my price range. Once I recovered from sticker shock, I found my oasis. 3 for 15£. That was the sale on the third floor of Harrods' music department.

I flipped through the racks of albums for at least an hour before deciding on David Gray's "A New Day at Midnight", another album I can't recall, and Rachael Yamagata's "Happenstance".

I spent the entire evening glued to my headphones. I played these tracks over, and over, and over again. I had never heard anything like her voice before. Now, I've noticed how she draws from revered musicians like Tom McRae, Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits. But then, her intimate style of writing hit me like a double-decker bus.

"Happenstance" is a fine debut- and certainly a step above most female singer-songwriters that find their way into the pop world. Yamagata made her mark with the slick, melody driven catharsis of “Worn Me Down”.

She gained some attention for the lush, opening waltz “Be Be Your Love”--featured in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants-- but it wasn’t until her appearance on Zach Braff’s “Last Kiss” soundtrack that she reached a wider audience.

“The Reason Why” is a classic break-up anthem through and through--despite being written about her decision to embark on a solo career and part with her first foray into the music world, Chicago funk band Bumpus.

All of those songs are well-crafted, pleasing to the ear and a fine display of Yamagata's talent. But my personal favorites are the album cuts featured below:

"Meet Me By the Water"
Beautiful melody, direct lyrics and hypnotizing production by John Alagia.

Understated lullaby that renders me speechless every time I listen.

"Ode To"
Featured as a hidden track on "Happenstance", but clearly one of the best examples of her songwriting on the album.

And those are just a few examples of this woman's talent. In later posts, I'll share some live recordings, unreleased songs and selections from her second release, 2008's double album "Elephants...Teeth Sinking Into Heart". Get acquainted with Rachael Yamagata.

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