I will preface all of this by stating that you might have to be a basket case to appreciate how beautiful this album is. I’m not sure, because I was a mess when I downloaded it and it knocked me off my feet it was so good. Good in this case is defined by the amount of times it allows the heartbroken to identify through gobs of tissues not only with the words but with the haunting instrumentals. If you do love and appreciate the Female Singer Songwriter genre and appreciate Tori Amos, Sia, Shelby Lynne and Sarah McLachlan, etc. then you should be able to appreciate this album at any time. I can be objective to say yes, it’s a gorgeous album regardless of your state of mind, but you might not want to listen to it if you’re in a good mood. Music fans has an arsenal full of albums that they only listen to when they’re heart is breaking, and this one is no doubt, a contender.
Her sophomore effort, released at the end of 2008, it appears much stronger than her first album, though I will admit, I don’t have it and only skimmed through it (I loved the single Be Be Your Love and stopped there, shame on me). The new album begins with Elephants, clearly setting the tone for the rest of the experience which is deliberately timed and there in lies it genius and efficacy. Elephants is possibly the most gut wrenching song on the album and gets your emotions flowing quickly and angrily, without which, possibly you might not appreciate the rest of the album as much? A genius device perhaps, and it works. The caveat to all lovers is delivered:
"So for those of you falling in love, keep it kind, keep it good, keep it right. Throw yourself in the midst of danger but keep one eye open at night"
and thus the album begins.
The journey takes a detour to tell a story or two, then swoops back in with one of my favorites, Sunday Afternoon, much like initial denial, and drops you head first into every feeling with rich and deliberate instrumental choices and it’s wildly cathartic. The wallowing picks back up with a duet with Ray Lamontagne appropriately titled Duet; The lovers journey of considering a return.
Over and Over:
“I really thought I was just fine, but when I woke this time, there was nothing to take me back to sleep, to take you off my mind…”
“Old love, how I wish we were an old love, and survived all this and more, Oh, you’re turning everything to dust, And the wind is picking up…”
Acceptance creeps in:
“Something had died yet everything around kept turning, don't even know where you are. Somewhere along the line we lost the horizon”.
The Only Fault: A solo acoustic guitar with a side of bitter acceptance.
The album however, does not end there. Uncharacteristically, Yamagata tries her hand at a sound she has not yet recorded. She excels at the sounds of misery, but angst with a potentially pop-y beat? I didn’t expect this. The angst continues through this segment and though at first listen it may appear as though she’s trying to tack an EP of new sounds at the end of this album, upon further listening, it confirms and continues the initial path of the album.
A variety of Electric Guitars and a traveling rhythm deliver Sidedish Friend, with the feel of a contemporary Voice’s Cary by Aimee Mann (ok fine,Til’ Tuesday) .
Accident is more of a social commentary about celebrity couples who dissolve before our eyes, victims of their own making. It’s poignant but a distraction that I thought was oddly placed and would have bade a better B side, but whatever.
Faster: More ex-angst with guitars and drums and mic filters for grunginess, but I like it, it’s hot.
Pause The Tragic Ending: Well put together, a seemingly campy delivery of the ballad of the musician that takes your heart, puts it in a song, and goes back home to his girl. Ouch.
Don’t: A bitter, bluesy stumble through a smoky bar that conjures all kinds of visuals.
“I can even scores with the best of them, I can leave my innocence at bay. You can turn your back on my sincerity, but don't fuck me in front of me.”
…wow, love it!
To any fans of the female singer songwriter who refuses to be happy (and there are plenty! ) this album is a smart purchase. You won’t have to skip around much. It really is a breathtaking album and shouldn’t be skipped but rather, digested.
Check out her homepage www.rachaelyamagata.com to get an ear-full of Elephants, Sunday Afternoon and Side Dish Friend. Check out the video for Sunday Afternoon below.