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Rachael Yamagata at the Birchmere

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • September 25, 2008

                                                                                    Statia MolewskiThe Birchmere stage was strewn with silk rose petals for Rachael Yamagata on Tuesday night -- bought by herself, the singer confessed, from an online wedding-supply store. It was quintessential Yamagata: wry, self-mocking and yet romantic to the core. The Arlington native has made a specialty of exploring the landscapes of the broken heart ever since her debut 2004 disc, "Happenstance," but as she showed the packed house, she doesn't just lay the emotion on thick -- she finesses it with imagination, tension and intriguing subtlety.

Yamagata has one of those carelessly beautiful, half-asleep voices that are made for brooding, and brooding to; it's husky and dark, like smoke from a smoldering fire. And while there's a little self-involvement in her songs -- okay, there's a lot of self-involvement in her songs -- there's also an easy naturalness to her singing that keeps everything from dissolving into angst soup. Alternating moody heart-tuggers (the early "Meet Me by the Water," the obsessive "Worn Me Down") with gutsier, more cathartic rock tunes ("What if I Leave," "Faster"), she kept the energy tight, and the emotions electric, throughout the set.

At 31 (she celebrated her birthday onstage, complete with cake), Yamagata may be getting ready to move in new directions; it's hard to mine the pain of love forever, and eventually you just get married and that's that. But the material she played from her upcoming release, "Elephants . . . Teeth Sinking Into Heart," showed that Yamagata is carving out a place as one of America's most interesting -- and maybe incurable -- romantics. 

Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 02:10PM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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