The battle for Rachael Yamagata’s soul

Rachael Yamagata’s style is hard to pin down, but the critics seem to like the melancholy … subtle … drama of her slow songs, which occupy one of the discs on her new double release.

I, on the other hand, like the faster stuff (including a song called Faster, linked below). She’s like PJ Harvey without the crazy.

Consider the video evidence, which I’ll just link up rather than embedding since everything I embed gets taken down. (And really, it’s about the music, not the visuals. Well, maybe on the one live clip I’ll explain.)

1. This is her most radio-friendly song, 1963. Upbeat, pleasant, fun.

2. From her new album, the slow, slow song Elephants. Compelling, but would you want this to be the bulk of her repertoire?

3. A live Tonight Show performance of the song I’m playing over and over again on my iPod these days, Faster. The live performance isn’t bad, but the studio version is astounding, full of rhythmic surprises and jolting lyrics.

4. One of her older piano ballads, Reason Why. It’s a pretty song that holds up even when she’s playfully getting a couple of obnoxious guys to shut up.

I’m conflicted about that, too. On one hand, I’m impressed that she comes across as so charming when she’s just trying to get a couple of people to shut up long enough for her to sing a pretty, popular song of hers. On the other hand, doesn’t she end up encouraging a couple of guys to be assholes just because they’re cute?


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