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4.3 out of 5 stars 129 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Happenstance…the never can be…

Main Entry: hap·pen·stance; Etymology: happen + circumstance: A circumstance especially that is due to chance. - Merriam Webster Dictionary

I apologize for insisting on writing my own bio, but I just can not be satisfied with another’s account of my psyche when even I don’t understand it myself. Welcome to the world of this indecisive control freak hopeless romantic…

Happenstance, produced by John Alagia (John Mayer, Dave Matthews etc.), is a collection of songs inspired by my obsessions, often love related, but not always. It’s about the battle between chance circumstances and the belief that everything happens for a reason. The title and the back cover addition of ‘the never can be’ suggest that I’m not really endorsing chance, but, in fact insisting that there must be a reason for repeated broken hearts – perhaps a promise of a better situation, learning experience, the greater love etc. It’s a circular argument… and it’s merely a matter of ‘happenstance’ that the title is what it is anyway. Without the hopefulness of reason, how could anyone weather the highs and lows of relationships and this delightful junk called love.

Look to the second album for a more cynical approach in which it all goes to hell and nothing makes sense and chance is winning…

There is a combustible quality about newcomer Rachael Yamagata that for a lot of listeners will call to mind Fiona Apple: A first spin of Happenstance can make you itch with the thrill of discovery, but it also leaves behind the impression that its singer is vaguely dangerous; which is exactly what makes these songs so absorbing. "Everybody's talking how I can't be your love," she pouts in a melodically engineered stutter on opener "Be Be Your Love," one of several tracks pairing her with a piano that seems to take the brunt of the punishment for her wrecked relationships. The rest of the disc unravels with similar heat: When she growls in her full-time rasp that "(You've) worn me down/like a road/I did everything you told" on the very infectious indie-rock leaning "Worn Me Down," you believe her. But the less stormy numbers work as well, with "1963" coming off as flower-power pop grounded by a voice that knows better and "I Want You" wending its way through a fat, heartsick wallow to emerge someplace burnt in honesty. A late minute-long instrumental feels more tasteful than pretentious, adding to a monster of a debut already fueling hopes that happenstance--the term, not the album--will play a miniscule part in Yamagata's eventual output. --Tammy La Gorce

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Be Be Your Love
  2. Letter Read
  3. Worn Me Down
  4. Paper Doll
  5. I’ll Find A Way
  6. 1963
  7. Under My Skin
  8. Meet Me By The Water
  9. Even So
  10. I Want You
  11. Reason Why
  12. Moments With Oliver
  13. Quiet

Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 8, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: RCA Victor
  • ASIN: B00022KF1A
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,483 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Erica Anderson on August 16, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Ever had a song that had been stuck in your head for what seems like eternity? I have and that song that has been stuck in my head for eons is Rachael Yamagata's infectious "Worn Me Down". My local radio stations has been playing "Worn Me Down" quite a bit. It is one of the few songs that I actually enjoy listening to on the radio. I have not been able to get that song out of my head (which is a good thing). I finally broke down and bought "Happenstance" over the weekend. It took me a few listens and over time, the cd gradually grew on me. I can certainly hear the comparisons to Fiona Apple but as another reviewer wrote here, Rachael has a huskier voice. Plus her lyrics aren't as depressing as Fiona Apple's. She also reminded me of Beth Orton (a little bit) but minus the english accent. I guess I can hear a little Norah Jones in Rachael but nowhere as indecipherable as Norah is when it comes to singing. Next to "Worn Me Down", I thought the first two songs "Be Be Your Love" and "Letter Read" stood out for me on the album. "Happenstance" is one of those albums where everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in in terms of various influences in Rachael's music like country, jazz, and folk music. If "Happenstance' is anything to expect from Rachael Yamagata in the future, then I am looking forward to hearing more from her.
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By M. Park on September 29, 2004
Format: Audio CD
My first impression on Rachael Yamagata's Happenstance was overwhelmingly pleasing. This is quality music. What makes it high in quality? Creativity encapsulated in TALANTED artistic expression. Listening to the tracks the first time comes feeling of enchanting inspiration. It seems the "Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility" does not apply with this album. In other words the replay value, atleast for me, does not decrease in any way. Every track is unique in style. Rachael Yamagata has a wonderful, sweet, gentle, soothing hurricane of a voice. Breath-taking. Yet there is a fine balance between her voice and the instrumental progression. Neither being aggressive over the other. There is no "favorite" track here, and rightly so. Judging from this album, I can confidently say that Yamagata acquires substantial progress for the indie rock culture. 5-stars hands down. If all you do is listen and follow mainstream_trl music, you must die. Listen to a bit of life for a change.

Pros: creative, beautiful, anti-law of diminishing marginal utility

Cons: if listener has been first contaminated by what is, according to the unattentive ear, deceptively 'similar' in mainstream... it may require cleansing of the mind, soul, ear.
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Format: Audio CD
Rachael Yamagata's voice and vocal technique are positively apocalyptic -- a low, husky moan that automatically adds a load of anguish to all her songs, even an upbeat swinger like "I Want You". It's a seductive sound, however, kind of like the very dark, almost Goth doppelganger of Norah Jones. Even Fiona Apple sounds carefree by comparison.

The performances on this record are terrific all around, with a groove-heavy rhythm section and good, engaging arrangements in the jazz and rock veins. If anything, te weakness of this record is that it doesn't really vary its emotional approach. Everything is dark, heavy and menacing; it could use a little bit more lightness and sparseness -- as in the "hidden" 14th track (named as "Ode to..." in Rolling Stone), where Yamagata's airy singing and the lonely acoustic guitar provide some much-needed contrast to the dense melancholy that came before. However, the singular mood of Happenstance can also be a plus. Put it on when you're in a black, depressed kind of mood and it'll sound like it's expressing your emotions for you.
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By Biqi on December 28, 2004
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
After reading the reviews and going on the her website to listen to a few songs, I bought the CD. I liked it at first, but something started bothering me about it and I put it away after a week.

I guess I can see how she is compared to Fiona Apple or Norah Jones. But in all honesty, I just can't find the soul in this album. Her singing is soothing, but not beckoning or captivating. The melodies are sweet and comforting, but not very complex. But these things don't bother me, they're nice and I'm satisfied.. They're okay. The thing that bothers me the most about her songs are the lyrics. I think it's been noted before, that they're very predictable, and not very thoughtful. It's not poetic, and I don't want to say they sometimes are "crappy," but I just did. LIke "I feel like i'm lovin' you in 1963. flowers in my hair now." in 1963. I mean... it's meaningless. What does that have to do with anything? Maybe it's not supposed to mean much, but it gets pretty annoying after a while.

Anyway... She's good. But she's definitely no Fiona, Tori, or Norah. I just don't feel it.
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Format: Audio CD
Rachael Yamagata was a new music discovery for me last week, but it took about 5 seconds to know I love her music. Her voice is like a curtain of incense smoke, it fills your spaces and transports you to another realm.

Some of her songs sound like some hopeless romantic running her fingers on a piano keyboard. Her music seems melancholy at times, but when she picks up speed the music sounds like a galloping horse on a beach at midnight. She has a great range and can pretty much sing anything she pleases.

This album is a mix of soft and catchy songs, and her voice is a definite winner. There are many songs on it which she sings while playing the piano, which makes for sensual and haunting music. I love an artist who can write their own music, and as I searched her name out on the internet, her website has her journals and her writing is superb. It can make a fan of hers out of anyone who likes interesting and clever words. I am keeping my eye out on Yamagata and definitely purchasing all further music she will make. This cd is full of wonderful material that is easy to listen to, overall you couldn't ask for better music.
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