Singer/Songwriter Rachael Yamagata understands that relationships are never delicate. On her new EP, Heavyweight, Yamagata tugs at listeners’ heartstrings through her passionate piano pieces. By the end of the 25 minute and 40 second sampler, the album epitomizes the complications and devastations of true heartbreak.
The release of Heavyweight is unlike other records for one obvious reason — the label. In years past, Yamagata has recorded under labels such as RCA Victor and Warner Bros, and her older recordings were featured on mainstream television programs such as “One Tree Hill,” “The L Word” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
After growing tired of the worn-out, “commercial” sound, Yamagata independently funded her own record label, Frankenfish Records, with her friend and music producer John Alagai. Now she has full control over her sound and her most recent recordings — a full-length album, Chesapeake, and Heavyweight — display some of her truest work.
The EP begins with the title single, “Heavyweight.” The song mirrors the style of Joni Mitchell’s 1971 classic, “River,” as a slow-tempo piano ballad with a raw jingle that repeats and changes significance throughout the song. Similar to Mitchell, Yamagata sings “you can take your anger out on me/oh, what’s it matter/if my hope gets shattered.”
Heavyweight, like the song, ultimately tells the story of a physically strong, Rocky Balboa-type male who needs the mental encouragement of a powerful spirit like Yamagata.
Throughout the EP, Yamagata continues to describe the highs and lows of relationships. Showcasing the sultry sadness of a piano and cello duet, the third track, “It’ll Do,” describes the feeling of settling for something that is not necessarily romantic, but works for the time being. Yamagata sings, “it’s not a fairytale/it wasn’t heaven-sent/but it’ll do.”
After “It’ll Do,” she switches gears in the light-hearted fourth track titled “Falling in Love Again,” which sways like Michael Bublé’s jazzy/lite music single, “Hold On.” Yamagata now writes, “let’s meet in the middle/let’s give it one more try/here we go/we’re falling in love again.”
Yamagata concludes the EP with the final track, “Keep Going.” Just as the character of Balboa argues, “nobody hits harder than life,” the song summarizes Yamagata’s feelings of “rolling with the punches” in her relationship.
“Keep Going” opens with a classically-orchestrated “swan song” and abruptly switches to a soft acoustic set. Yamagata sings, “you can trust me and I’ll trust you/if I falter, you’ll forgive me/I’ll forgive you.” Although these may have been her emotions at one time, Yamagata is utterly reminiscent of a time that once was.
Whether she was saving someone, settling for someone or swooning over someone, her message is clearly emitted through the tempo, instrumentation and lyrical construction of each individual song.
Heavyweight is the perfect soundtrack to any break-up party for one. Yamagata’s deep timbre constantly calls for pouring some wine and drowning in tears, and sometimes, that’ll do.
3 1/2 out of 4 stars