Pillbox

Happenstance travels through heartache and back

Some people perceive a broken heart as nothing highly unusual. To others, a broken heart is a painful reminder of what could have been. For 27-year-old Rachael Yamagata, love and failed relationships contribute to a collection of songs inspired through the turmoil of falling for someone, being in love, and finding out that he isn?t ?the one.? Yamagata?s debut album, Happenstance, explores the obsession, chaos, and agony of falling in love only to be left in the end with remnants of a broken past.

Although highly reminiscent of Michelle Branch?s debut album, Yamagata takes a less mainstream approach in her album of heartache. Instead of playing the role of the typical angst-ridden girl riding the roller coaster of teenage-dom, Yamagata leads us back down memory lane through the eyes of a girl ? a hopeless romantic ? who has traveled down the same road more than twice. Happenstance is packed with 13 tracks, featuring music and lyrics mostly written by Yamagata herself.

It is apparent that Yamagata is unlike many of the current rising pop queens vying for a piece of the music scene. Her husky and soulful voice remind us of the age of Billie Holiday, where talent and singing about things that mattered were the keys towards generating a wide fan base. Yamagata?s musical talents dazzle listeners upfront with the less emotionally intense song ?Be Be Your Love.? If there is one thing that listeners will learn, it?s that although Yamagata may be afraid of falling in love, she?s not afraid to take leaps in music. The confidence that is reflected in her voice, as well as the various voice techniques and moods she incorporates into this song, is sure to leave the audience in awe.

The music in Happenstance can be divided into two categories: soulful jazz and jazzy pop. Yamagata manages to create a harmonious balance between the two and delivers a relatively good sampling of her musical abilities. A note of warning for listeners looking for extremely upbeat jazz music: This is not the album for you. Quite frankly, Happenstance is not for the lighthearted. It is for those who have loved and loved deeply, but found themselves left behind with nothing but empty memories. Most important, this is an album for the person who is embittered from failed past relationships and hardened by the trials of love. For these listeners, Yamagata offers them the hope and courage to believe in love again.

Another noteworthy aspect of Happenstance is the powerful instrumentals. Yamagata?s assembly of talented artists becomes apparent from the actual musical components of the album. Throwing dramatics into the background and creating tension and discordance when necessary are signature elements of Yamagata?s music style. While most newcomer bands and artists misuse these techniques, Yamagata?s flair is undeniable. The resulting product is an album that has not only strong vocal talent, but also a moving and haunting instrumental presence.
The one thing about Yamagata?s debut album that needs to be strengthened is the imagery used in her lyrics. For the most part, Yamagata is successful in communicating very intense and vivid feelings through instrumental and vocal techniques. In terms of lyrics, another degree of power through music can be added to further emphasize the main message. Although her songs are very frank, and appeal to most audiences because of the parallels between her relationships and those of her listeners, lyrics such as ?I want you/Or no one/No one else for me/Yes, you or no one? undermine Yamagata?s talents. On the other hand, songs like ?Paper Doll? (?They?ll dress you up for the flight/Like Ophelia, you wave goodnight/With the earth and sky you cheer and cry/Writhe as all your days go by/And laugh as you die?) make good use of imagery and illusions, thus creating a poetic rhythm that further contributes to the soulful atmosphere prevalent throughout Yamagata?s album.

Despite all the heartaches Yamagata has experienced, she still believes that everything has a purpose. Behind all the sorrow, discordance, and miscommunication of which Yamagata sings, Happenstance is actually an album that is secretly rooting for love despite the overshadowing presence of pain and heartache.