Yamagata has best of both worlds on double album

Sat Sep 27, 2008 2:31am EDT
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By Mikael Wood

NEW YORK (Billboard) - New York-based singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata knows that a sizable portion of her audience might never hear her new album the way she intended.

Due October 7 via Warner Bros., "Elephants ... Teeth Sinking Into Heart" consists of 15 tracks spread over two CDs, one with ballads and one with rockers.

The idea, the says, was to present "two different sound experiences" in a manner that preserves the emotional purity of each. "Of course, it's all going to end up on iPod Shuffle anyway," Yamagata said with a laugh. "I accept that that's how it goes these days. But I didn't want to help that process along."

As its atypical presentation suggests, "Elephants" reintroduces an artist who has undergone some changes since the release of her 2004 debut, "Happenstance," which has sold 156,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That album slotted easily into the early-'00s girls-gone-mild craze that erupted in the wake of Norah Jones' success. But the new disc is an artier, more cerebral affair, with introspective arrangements full of chamber-Goth piano and jagged-edged guitar.

The first disc's centerpiece, "Sunday Afternoon," stretches beyond the nine-minute mark. "This record isn't really going for mass appeal," Yamagata said. "Nothing on it strikes me as a traditional pop-radio hit. If anything breaks, it'll be because the audience was waiting for this kind of sound."

"We were working during late winter in a studio isolated on a mountain in upstate New York," added Bright Eyes member Mike Mogis, who produced the bulk of "Elephants." ("Happenstance" producer John Alagia took the helm on two tracks.) "Moodwise, if that darker feeling wasn't in there prior to going up there, it certainly got added while we were there."

Yamagata, who will hit the road this fall with the all-female Hotel Cafe tour, still can't believe she found a home for her latest creation. "Right off the bat, Warner Bros. started talking to me about 'Sunday Afternoon,'" she said with a laugh. "I was like, 'You're a record label and you fell in love with a song that goes on for nine minutes and 13 seconds? Really?'"