Review | Rachael Yamagata

rachael-yamagata-tightrope-walker
Rating:

Rachael Yamagata, Tightrope Walker, Frankenfish Records/Thirty Tigers

For her latest album, Tightrope Walker, Rachel Yamagata was inspired by the tale of legendary performer Philip Petit – the Frenchman who walked a tightrope strung between the World Trade Center twin towers in 1974. Popularized in documentary and feature film, his is an astounding story that had many asking “Why?”. His answer to this was: “Why? There is no why.” This response left a deep impression on the singer-songwriter who took that question and response, and applied it to her own work. Oscar Wilde once famously declared: “All art is quite useless”, while far from being a jab at creativity, the great wit was onto something. Years later, Philip Petit made the same declaration. There is no why behind the act of creation, just the act itself. The compulsion to create.

Slide guitar and slinky sax creep through title track ‘Tightrope Walker’ as Yamagata’s sultry vocals narrate the journey of the protagonist. Tracks such as ‘Nobody’ and ‘EZ Target’ find the singer going out on a more experimental limb, stepping from the trappings of adult contemporary to a grittier, less compromising sound. ‘Over’ manages to straddle the fine line between accessibility and originality.

‘Let Me Be Your Girl’ settles for more familiarly conventional territory that rests a bit too comfortably in jam band grooves. While smoldering in slow burning love, ‘Break Apart’, teeters close to the edge before taking a few steps back to end things nicely and neatly, begging for more bite and less politeness.

Cinematic album masterpiece, with string arrangements courtesy of Oliver Kraus, ‘I’m Going Back’ features the singer taking a time traveling trip to childhood nostalgia, pining after lost innocence and the multitudinous wonders of seeing the world from a perspective that has not been clouded by cynicism and defeat. It is in this space that the marrow of the message at the heart of Tightrope Walker lies: that no matter how flayed we are by the stings and arrows of the world, we cannot give up on our passions, and it is passion which is at the pulsing, beating heart of this album.

In her fourth album to date, Rachael Yamagata has dug deep to extract some sparkling gems that speak to resilience and embracing the baby bird fragility that lies in the hearts of our psyches – those parts that we rarely allow anyone to see at all. Exposing her vulnerability has equally exposed her strength and prowess as a singer, songwriter and musician at the top of her game.

Megan Beard

Catch Rachael Yamagata live:

17 Nov The Islington London, UK

20 Nov The Islington London, UK

21 Nov The King’s Arms Salford, UK

22 Nov Mono Glasgow, UK

24 April Paradiso Noord Amsterdam, Netherlands

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