Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday music recommendation #10

I didn't seek out much new music when I was younger. I pretty much absorbed other people's musical taste -- my dad's classic rock, my mom's alternative acts, and my college boyfriend's indie and alt country favorites. It wasn't until 2004 that I started actively seeking new music that I liked. It was a tough year from me -- a turning point for me in a lot of ways -- and I came out on the other side stronger, more sure of myself, unafraid to have my own opinions and tastes. Sounds kind of hokey, I know, but it was huge for me. I felt like my own person for the first time.

It was in the fall of 2004 that I discovered an artist that no one I knew had ever heard of: Rachael Yamagata. I heard one of her songs on a TV show, tracked down the album (Happenstance), and fell immediately in love with it. I felt so connected to that album. It became my personal soundtrack for the next 6 months, and I couldn't wait to see what she would do next. I was ecstatic when I found out that she collaborated with Rhett Miller (of Old 97's fame) on a couple of his solo songs. "Fireflies" is now one of my all-time favorite songs. But it wasn't until this year -- 4 years after she released her first album -- that she came out with a new project. Her new album, called Elephants...Teeth Sinking Into Heart, is totally worth the wait.

So why am I in love with Rachael? First, it's her voice. Husky, haunting, and rough around the edges. She imbues every song, whether upbeat or subdued, with a sultry, bluesy quality that I love. Second? Orchestration. Rachael herself plays the guitar and piano, and in addition to her quiet, contemplative ballads, she has these sweeping, epic, lushly arranged songs that employ entire string sections without sounding maudlin or overdone. She has such passion in her voice and her songwriting. Third? She just seems like a cool person. Her dad is a third-generation Japanese-American attorney, and her mom is a painter. She's fronted a funk band; she's collaborated with some of my favorite artists (including Bright Eyes). And once, after a sold-out gig in LA, she played in the alley behind the venue for the fans that couldn't get into the show. Check that out:

Rachael singing/playing "Sunday Afternoon" (acoustic guitar & cello):

"Sidedish Friend"

"Worn Me Down"



...and the song that started it all, "Be Be Your Love"


Louisiana Belle said...

Great write-up! I love her voice and can see why you are a fan. It's more than commendable that she gave an extra performance for free to fans that couldn't get into her show. Awesomeness.

Jay said...

Still amazes me, that time we were driving somewhere, and one of her songs came on your iPod.

We were shocked at each other, that anyone else had ever heard of Rachael Yamagata :)