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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Under my skin
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...
Published on August 16, 2004 by Erica Anderson

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's all right.
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...
Published on December 28, 2004 by R. Chan


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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Under my skin, August 16, 2004
By 
This review is from: Happenstance (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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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, September 29, 2004
This review is from: Happenstance (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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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smoky and moody, heavy with drama., October 26, 2004
By 
D. Mok (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Happenstance (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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's all right., December 28, 2004
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This review is from: Happenstance (Audio CD)
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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding and addicitve, February 17, 2006
By 
This review is from: Happenstance (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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4-1/2 stars -- Why don't more people know about this girl?, December 3, 2004
This review is from: Happenstance (Audio CD)
It's not often that you can find an album on this site that every reviewer says is great, but with Rachael Yamagata's album Happenstance, that is exactly what's happening. I saw her on the Tonight Show a few weeks ago, and I don't remember what song she performed, but I decided to pick up the album anyway to see what it was like. And I haven't put it down since.

Rachael's vocals seem to be a combination of Dido, Sarah McLachlan, and Norah Jones, and she uses her voice to deliver exceptional songs. I don't know if I could pick one song as my favorite, but right now I can't get enough of the catchy "Worn Me Down" (which appears to be a hit with several other reviewers as well). The metaphorical "1963" is also a winner, as well as the smooth string solo, "Moments With Oliver", which is really done by fellow instrumentalist Oliver Kraus.

When Rachael tackles relationship problems, she also hits. "I'll Find a Way", "Meet Me By the Water" and "Reason Why" are great relaxing tracks. But when she talks about GOOD love, like on "Be Be Your Love", she's still very impressive.

Some people might grow tired of the way she repeats words and lines throughout certain songs, but I think it's a great album regardless. The only song I really didn't care for was "I Want You", which made me say the opposite. But Happenstance is still a wonderful album. If you already own it, don't loan it to anyone because I'm not sure you'd get it back.

Anthony Rupert
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars By "Happenstance", May 15, 2005
This review is from: Happenstance (Audio CD)
I first stumbled across Rachael Yamagata when browsing the "used" bins of my favorite music store. Then I came across an EP with a pretty young woman, wearing a sloachy sweater and leaning on a chain-link fence. It had the grittier look of an atypical pop album, and the music backed it up -- as soon as I heard Yamagata's singing, I knew that she was a future hitmaker.

Her full-length debut "Happenstance" just shows that I was completely right. Without sounding repetitive, former electrofunk singer Yamagata follows similar musical turf, exploring saddening love in all its dimensions, with her husky voice and piano-pop sound.

It opens on a piano-jazzy number with "Letter Read," which is the best song that Fiona Apple never sang. In fact, the whole album has a similar flavour, albeit a sadder one, with Yamagata chastising lovers for betrayals, lamenting the distance between them, and telling them how "everybody's talkin' how I can't can't can't be your love/ but I want want want to be your love."

Along the way, she delves into snarly indierock ("she's so pretty/she's so damn right/but I'm so tired of thinking about her tonight!"), melancholy acoustic ballads, piano numbers that sound like they were recorded on a rainy day, and jazzy pop. In "1963," Yamagata takes a break into 60s-style pop and sunny love affairs, announcing, "I find it to be magical/I feel like I'm lovin' you in 1963/Flowers in my hair/little bitty hearts upon my cheek/baby you'll be on my mind/till I kiss you next time." And the Japanese version of this album also has an extra track from her debut EP: "Collide," a melancholy, cello-laden song.

Even touring with Gomez and Liz Phair, Yamagata was relatively little-known before "Happenstance" came out. But her work has a raw, smoky quality that many twenty-something pop stars can only dream on. Listening to these, it's easy to imagine being in a dark club, listening to Yamagata up on a stage.

One of the rare things about Yamagata is that her age is indefinably just by listening to her -- she could be anywhere from fifteen to fifty. Yamagata does bump up against her vocal limitations in "Letter Read"; she sounds very strained in the chorus. At least it's assuring that her voice was untouched by computers. Most of the time, though, she sounds like an indiepop version of Norah Jones -- smoky, smooth and very pretty.

Yamagata -- who wrote most of the songs, and cowrote the others -- plays the piano in her assorted songs, as well as a bit of keyboard and synth. And she is backed up by a very talented band that weaves some extra instrumentation behind her, using drums, bass, guitars and sometimes the cello in a way that is startlingly soft.

Yamagata's poignant full-length debut makes her sound like Fiona Apple's sadder little sister. It's a collection of melancholy and heartbreak, wrapped up in piano tunes. An underrated little gem.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Awesome music, but won't buy on principle, October 7, 2005
This review is from: Happenstance (Audio CD)
My friend owns this cd, and we have played it until we know every word to every song. It's awesome. But she can't save it to her computer-it's "copy protected." For that reason, I will not buy it. The law states that it is ok to make a copy of a cd for your own personal use. I always make a "car copy" of my cds so they don't get messed up from being in my car, and I use my computer as my stereo (like many people these days), so i need to be able to copy it to my hard drive in order to keep my disc drive free. The most ridiculous thing is that, for 30 bucks, you can buy software to rip copy protected cds. what's the point? RCA is hurting this artist, not helping her. The only people they are helping are themselves.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fresh and Nascent Talent, March 3, 2006
By 
P. J Lukitsch (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Happenstance (Audio CD)
I discovered Rachael Yamagata in the spring of 2005 about a year after Happenstance was released. Though not quite sure how I stumbled upon her work, I was very impressed with it (and also dissapointed that I never got to hear her in my home town of Chicago (before she signed with a label) where she started performing, first with Bumpis and then as a solo act).

The first song I ever heard was "The Reason Why" (the version of the song from the EP, which is a slighlty different arrangement than the version on Happenstance, and in my opinion somewhat better), and even though it possessed a weighty melancholy, the beauty and emotion of it captivated me: I must have played this song 5 times a day for a month.

Before going further, I want to mention that one of my first impressions of RY (before knowing much about her), was that her music and lyrics had a definite maturity; I assumed this singer/songwriter was at least in her 30s as her words and the emotion in her music conveyed life experience --I was surprised and even more impressed to later learn that she was in her early 20s when she composed "The Reason Why".

As many here say (as well as my friends for whom I have played her music) there are some shades of Fiona Apple. While I also love all of Fiona's work, there is something different and equally special with Rachael Yamagata's composisitions. Like Fiona, she has a knack for introspective and intelligent lyrics (though not quite as cynical and cutting as Fiona's), and her compositions largely display a musically innovative structure and chord progressions that are far from standard. Her songs and her voice range from the Norah Jones-type torch numbers, to bluesy ballads with hints of Janis Joplin, Carole King, and Rickie Lee Jones, to name a few.

I highly recommend Happenstance (and her debut EP as well). "Paper Doll", "Letter Read", and "Be Be Your Love" are outstanding; and "Quiet", "Ode To..." (unlisted track 14) are hauntingly beautiful (and notwithstanding my comment above, the Happenstance version of "The Reason Why" is still a great pleasure). This album contains the type of quality music that may take 2 or 3 listenings to absorb but when you "get it", it stays with you indelibly; you can play this CD again and again without it sounding stale. The only exception to this is "Worn Me Down", the single from the album: while the song is terrific, its catchy pop hook--like the song's name--may wear down a little over time.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Wonderful, January 21, 2005
This review is from: Happenstance (Audio CD)
So many times you hear a song on the radio and immediately fall in love with it so you go out and buy the album and discover that there's only one song on the entire album you actually like. Such is not the case with Rachael Yamagata's 2004 full-length debut.

My ears stumbled upon hearing "Under My Skin" and within a matter of seconds, I was hooked. Rachael's smooth, sultry voice, reminiscent of Norah Jones, mixed with meaningful lyrics caught my attention immediately and I had to have Happenstance.

One of the few albums I find to be worthy of listening to in its near-entirety, Happenstance opens with the infectious "Be Be Your Love", followed by "Letter Read" in which Rachael states that she's "put so much into a life [she] made too much about you now to lie." "I'll Find a Way", the next notable track, is a great relaxing song to play Sunday morning thinking about that special someone. It should be followed by "Even So", a soothing, melodic ode to a wronged love. The string solo, "Moments with Oliver", by Oliver Kraus, is a perfect introduction to "Quiet", a deeply personal song that presents Rachael's voice demandingly and gently, simultaneously.

Happenstance is one of the chance occurrences where you hear one song and yearn for more. Rachael's smooth, sultry voice gets under the listener's skin...but in a good way, of course.
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Happenstance
Happenstance by Rachael Yamagata (Audio CD - 2004)
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