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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rachael Yamagata - Chesapeake

Rachael Yamagata - Chesapeake
2011, Frankenfish Records

Rachael Yamagata has built a reputation on well-crafted songs, a stirring voice, and an Indie attitude toward making music.  Even when working with a major label throughout much of the last decade, Yamagata has always managed to do things her way.  Yamagata has come full circle.  2011 finds Yamagata shaking off the yoke of major labels and making her way under her own imprint, Frankenfish Records.  The first album under this new flag is Chesapeake, an inspired 11-song collection born of creating and recording the album at producer John Alagia’s Chesapeake Bay home.

Chesapeake opens with "Even If I Don't", a semi-generic pop/rock number that never quite reaches out to the listener. Yamagata warms to her task, however, on the soulful "Starlight", an edgy, mid-tempo ballad set to a dance beat. The dark timbre of the arrangement is appealing, giving the song a more urgent feel than it might otherwise have. Yamagata's easy vocal style appeals on "Saturday Morning", sounding a bit like a suburban slow jam set to a light dance beat. Things really click for Yamagata on "You Won't Let Me", a powerful ballad of helplessness from being shut out by the one you love. Yamagata emotes wonderfully here, telling the tale in a voice so real you can touch it.

"Miles On A Car" is a mellow folk/pop stumble that's a bit too drawn out for its own good. Yamagata's voice takes a sultry turn for "Stick Around", an invitation in song that's sonically pleasing and hard to ignore. Yamagata comes fully alive on "The Way It Seems To Go", a wonderfully catchy and quirky number that is certain to be a crowd favorite, and sounds like perfect soundtrack fodder. The bluesy arrangement is a treat, and Yamagata's vocals are spot-on. "Full On" is a soliloquy in song, and Yamagata offers her best vocal performance of the set. The song is thoughtful and sweet, with a deep air of melancholy. Yamagata closes with "Dealbreaker", a ballad of love's regrets and wishes for what might have been. Yamagata's pensive heartbreak is powerful, and the song carries an emotional wallop that sneaks up on you.

Rachael Yamagata has a talent for packing a lot of punch into little moments. Her voice is a bit off the charts; it's hard to say that Yamagata sounds quite like anybody, but in style she plays strongly on the same playground as many of the Lilith Fair artists of the last decade. Chesapeake is a bit too reserved at times, perhaps, but Yamagata makes per personal connection with all those who listen closely, and open themselves up to her deeply personal, emotional songs.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

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