wed 26/04/2017

CD: Rachael Yamagata - Tightrope Walker | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Rachael Yamagata - Tightrope Walker

CD: Rachael Yamagata - Tightrope Walker

Husky-voiced songwriter embraces her experimental side

The melodies, and Yamagata’s rich, husky voice, remain the centre of proceedings
Rachael Yamagata: a "quietly creative force"

Rachael Yamagata likes to take her time. Tightrope Walker comes a full five years after the American songwriter’s last release, and it’s an album that demands to be listened to with as much care as clearly went into its creation. Like the French daredevil Philippe Petit, for whom her latest album was apparently named, slow and steady wins the race for Yamagata: it’s there in its staid, rhythmic opener and title track; and it’s there in the atmospheric, but no less deliberate, “Money Fame Thunder”, which closes proceedings with another nod to its central character.

Best known for the sort of emotive songwriting that soundtracked the TV dramas of the mid-Noughties (“Reason Why”, from her 2004 debut Happenstance, is as close to an emotional bloodletting as it’s possible to get in just over five minutes), Yamagata is a quietly creative force with a voice like an old-school jazz chanteuse. Tightrope Walker finds her embracing her experimental side, her traditional piano and guitar joined by strings and harmonies, found sounds and samples. “Rainsong”, an otherwise straight-up piano ballad, opens with the tinny sound of rain recorded on an iPhone and a sample of French poetry; “EZ Target” turns the entire contents of a garden shed into percussion. In both cases the effect is transformative rather than gimmicky; the clatter of pans and taut strings on the latter in particular creating something part-exotic, part-chaotic.

But the melodies, and Yamagata’s rich, husky voice, remain the centre of proceedings, even on a song like the gorgeous “I’m Going Back”, where it’s a minute and a half before the vocal kicks in. The writer’s new-found devotion to experimental soundscapes never gets in the way of just how damn listenable these songs are. “Nobody” is sensuous and seductive, “Let Me Be Your Girl” a rich, immersive daydream. And “Over” drags the breakup song firmly into grown-up territory: no recriminations, no regrets, just rationality and a radio-friendly melody.

@lastyearsgirl_

Overleaf: watch the "Let Me Be Your Girl" video, starring Allison Janney

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters