Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Patrick Stolley
There are some seriously cold evenings coming out of Rachael Yamagata's heart. Part of her always feels like it's a chimney, with a shed out back filled to its brim with chopped wood, ready to supply it for the entire winter season. It will never go without those blocks of truck and branch to warm the house as best as it can, but as anyone who heats a home with a chimney knows, the warmth does travel to all parts. It's choosy, so you huddle within a safe zone and stray to those colder sections outside that area, only when needed. It's that complexity - though relative obviousness - that Yamagata brings into her dark-sided tales of love and worry. She's every bit as familiar with the cold wings of the house, where love retreats and curls up when it has to, shivering through the chilliness, as she is with the spot right in front of the fire that almost gets too cold at times. It's there, with everything crackling and hearty, where you can easily talk yourself into enjoying the intensity of the wood's working, but there always comes a time - even when you think that it's what you need and want from the fire - when it feels like your eyebrows are starting to burn off your face and you have to scoot back a few feet. You may just keep scooting back and, before you know it, your nose and toes are getting cold. However we'd actually like this retreat and approach to play out with the loves that we encounter in our lives is never the way they actually do and it's here where Yamagata draws her greatest inspiration. She enjoys contemplating the gripes that lovers often have with one another. It seems that someone always wants the other to change a little. There are a few things that would be better if they were altered and even when the going is good, in the back of the mind, there's always this thought of needing a few concessions if this is ever going to work. The concessions are expected to be arranged and when they aren't everyone loses.
She makes a very simple request on the song, "The Way It Seems To Go," singing, "Love me for being the woman I am and I'll love you for being my man." It's a line that might even concede some things. It could be a compromise or an acknowledgement that nothing is ever going to be perfect, so we should shake on our agreed upon flaws and just try to be happy and make it all work out. It's settling, but not settling. It's more just not pretending that anything can be perfect, nor can any one person. It's believing such a thing that gets you worked over and takes you down a path of solemn nights, probably mostly cold ones. And yet, love is always about someone having the upper hand and Yamagata plays that coy hand, singing, "I found that record that you've been looking for yesterday/The one I've been searching for forever/I played that old record all night/You were right/That last song said it all/And even though it skipped a bit/It sounded better/I never knew/The only way to listen to a record like that is to play it through/All of this means nothing/Without you," giving us the melancholy sweetness and elsewhere, she burns the poor guy, "If you fall for the part that's so brooding and dark/You'll never discover the rest of my heart/And I want you to see/There's so much to see/Just before I declare/You never knew me." It's all okay, all the ploys and the pulls. It keeps the fight for the warm spot in from of the fireplace alive.