Virginia-born singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata has the kind of mysterious voice you can only visualize as the profile of a woman's lower face with kissable ruby red lips.
Even if you've never seen what she looks like, just by listening to her will you imagine replaying home videos of your former girlfriend — the one that got away to be more specific. Yamagata doesn't make it easy on you. With her lush vocals constantly reminding you of your eternal mistake, you swear you were listening to a more down-to-earth version of Norah Jones.
For her sophomore album Elephants… Teeth Sinking Into Heart, Yamagata showcases two sides of her musical sensibility. The first side (Elephants…) is intimate, revealing the passionate, yet vulnerable truths to love.
The title track "Elephants" is a bare, emotional overloading attempt to rationalize a break-up ("If the tiger shall protect her young then tell me how did you slip by / All my instincts have failed me for once / I must have somehow slept the whole night"). "Sunday Afternoon" mimics the same theme but without the seemingly random lyrics ("Not gonna shed one more tear for you").
The moodiness and drama abruptly disappears with the start of up-tempo pseudo-sugar pop of "Sidedish Friend." If this was ole fashioned vinyl, the flip would have disrupted the continuity enough to differentiate the music but I guess juxtaposing all of the tracks on one compact disc was the only way.
"I didn't set out to make a two part album. We just followed the songs' lyrical lead," Yamagata says on the press release, yet even she accepts the second half's contrasting style, "[… Teeth Sinking Into Heart] is like rediscovering your backbone after you've gone through the loss." No song more overtly challenges you to get over the loss than the vampire-themed "Pause The Tragic Ending" with its surprisingly civil bluntness. Not a single man would hesitate with such an upfront woman.
Few female vocalists could pull off such a modern feminist ideal without sounding submissive or appearing unladylike. Maybe it's because she isn't blonde? That's not my only theory, but the fact remains that Yamagata handles herself with the brand of maturity and genuineness shunned in this generation's music world.