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CD Reviews: Rachael Yamagata
Rachael Yamagata: Happenstance
October 2004
By: Marco Nieves
album cover of Rachael Yamagata's Happenstance

I went to see Rachael Yamagata perform without even listening to one song, trusting the enthused word-of-mouth of several friends that described her as indescribable. I went, I saw, she unexpectedly conquered. Her voice resonated in my ears with an amazing sound that embraced guttural growls, beautiful high notes, powerful hoarse screams, and mellifluous melodies. Instantly after the show I bought her album Happenstance, as enthusiastic as the people that led me to the show in the first place.

The first thing that you hear once the album starts is a suspenseful drum beat, spaced and precise. Then, she utters If I could take you away. . . And she sure did. Mastering the guitar and especially the piano, she is often compared to Fiona Apple and Norah Jones, but it went much beyond than that--- back to Janis Joplin. I see a woman that has no filter when it comes to singing about heartbreak, desire, loss, and closure. The lyrics are self-penned songs about every aspect of romance and the lack thereof, songs about trying to cope with obsession, songs about making love, about destroying love. And it's about time we see another female figure that stands up to this unbreakable vulnerable-but-powerful platform in which her image is not as important as her talents in a world that promotes too much glitz and female artificiality. The album production did not cover up her impressive and multi-layered voice that flows with the ivories like they were meant to be, unlike her lovers that at least ended up as her sonic muses and our cathartic songs-of-the-moment.

With Happenstance, there's no delving needed to experience its message. Not even the graceful orchestras in the album overwhelm her delivery. It's raw in all its structure, in touch with those emotions we want to comprehend but always intimidate and surprise us with their unpredictability--- the same unpredictability that left me aghast with Rachael Yamagata's amazing artistry.