Rachael Yamagata is an astonishing performer -- raw, vulnerable, powerful, and heartbreaking. You can see it when you see her sing live on a stage, and you can hear it in every song. Listening to the 6 songs on her 'EP' is like looking at the early paintings of the masters, the emotion and the talent are clearly in evidence, while the technique is still developing.
The production of all six songs is pretty minimal, without much of the refinement of her more recent songs. This lack of polish works in many ways though, as the lyrics lend themselves to this raw and simple presentation. 'Collide' and 'Known for Years', the first two tracks, are smoky and moody, featuring Rachael's voice in all its sultry, sexy glory.
The next two songs, 'Worn Me Down' and 'The Reason Why', also appear on her first full album release, 'Happenstance'. On 'EP', though, they are different, especially 'Worn Me Down'. These versions have their own dimensions to explore and their own perspectives to offer on the broken relationships they describe. It's almost as though Rachael is covering her own songs here, showing a different take on them.
'Would You Please' describes a letter in fragments, something written to a former lover about a breakup. It feels like something sung in a darkened bar and might be the hardest song to listen to on the whole album, harsh and rending in its honesty and the way it weaves back and forth over what the letter says.
Of all the six songs, 'These Girls' (a "hidden track") is my favorite. Slow and thick and warm, it flows like blood, steadily pulsing, sometimes surging, sometimes spilling out in a red rush. A 6-minute treatise on the intricacies of tortured love, played with a bluesy sensibility and unmatched passion...it really doesn't get much better.
This is the music I love Rachael Yamagata for, this intense and intimate look into the human heart in all its complexity. All 6 songs are unique, and all are a look at a raw, impassioned talent, well worth the price of admission.
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Rich Stoehr (GlassIsland)
I often hide behind a pithy Douglas Adams quote or maybe some song lyrics. I guess it makes sense that much of what I share is reviews of things I like (or don't). People … more
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Forget Bohemian lofts or any other romantic notions about how artists live. Rachel Yamagata has just signed her first record deal--with RCA Victor Group--and is essentially launching her solo career from a 900-square-foot Ukrainian Village apartment that has all the ambiance of a weather center. Everything youd expect to find in her date book is scrawled on five-foot sheets of white paper that she found in an alley. One sheet is a calendar showing 23 days of upcoming meetings in New York and Los Angeles. Near it is a list of CDs--albums by Beck, Ryan Adams, and Bonnie Raitt--done with producers she likes. She needs to hire one, assemble a band, and book a concert tour, all in a few months time. Yamagata, whose father is Japanese, graduated from Northwestern University, where she majored in theatre. Honing her seductive style during the five years she spent with Bumpus, a Chicago funk and hip-hop fusion band, she wrote songs in her hotel room between shows"when the guys were watching a movie," she says. Meanwhile, scouts compared her with pop heavyweights, Fiona Apple and Sarah McLachlan. In 2000 she sang at the Viper Room in Los Angeles for record executives who wanted a private concert. Several of these showcases followed, and she signed her two-record deal in September 2002. She aims to finish her first CD in a year. But as she pets her cat, Henry, she is marvelously matter-of-fact about the way a record deal injects life with equal parts glamour and rock ...