In case you were worried Rachael Yamagata’s recent music was getting too happy, the singer/songwriter releases her new EP Heavyweight — featuring piano ballads about weights to bear, your ex’s new girlfriend, and that person in your bed you don’t really care about.
“This next song is about an asshole,” singer/songwriter Rachael Yamagata jokes to high-pitched cheers from the packed El Rey Theatre audience in Los Angeles.
It’s the fifth show of her 2012 North American Fall Tour, and she’s about to play a more somber, acoustic version of one of her classics, “Worn Me Down,” the featured single on her first 2003 EP (later re-recorded for her debut album, 2004’s Happenstance) that, for many long-time fans, was their introduction to the bold, raspy, sorrow-soaked voice that can deliver seemingly innocent lines like “I wish you the best, but I could live without it” and make it feel like a much-deserved knee to the groin. At her best, Yamagata’s songs of heartache are the equivalent of an unsteady stare-down – alternately cold, teary, or wistful, depending on the severity of the offense.
In the last decade, Yamagata has experimented in many genres, often breaking out of her “troubadour of heartbreak” box. She’s collaborated with the likes of Ray LaMontagne, Bright Eyes, Liz Phair, Dave Matthews, Ryan Adams and Mandy Moore, and her music has been featured in everything from Grey’s Anatomy and How I Met Your Mother to The Voice (Australia) and the Muppets soundtrack. She even made an appearance on 30 Rock joining an all-star vocal ensemble for the benefit song “He Needs a Kidney,” a parody of 1985’s “We Are The World.”
Her previous album, 2011’s Chesapeake, was made up of music she describes as “more spontaneous and liberating,” as it was her first independent, completely fan-funded studio album released on her own label, Frankenfish Records. However, she would soon be lured back into melancholy after a difficult relationship’s demise, which inspired the new music in her six-song EP Heavyweight, released November 2012.
“This is kind of an answer to anyone who was missing the darkness,” says Yamagata. “I like to be seasonal with my releases. This is more ‘going-into-winter’ type of music.”