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CD Review: Rachael Yamagata's Elephants ... Teeth Sinking Into Heart 

The Deal: 31-year-old releases second studio effort as 14-song, double CD.

The Good: You can't complain about a lack of material here – the first disc is nine songs lasting roughly 50 minutes; the second disc is five tracks and runs just under 20 minutes. Yamagata's smoky vocals evoke plenty of emotion and her songwriting is superb. I started to give up on "Little Life" as a slow and sleepy number, but two minutes in Yamagata's vocals really kick in and the song gets a new life. "Sunday Afternoon" is a nine-minute epic that goes from lone piano moments to kicked-up choruses full of strings and heartfelt singing to a brief moment of exploratory instrumentation reminiscent of Pink Floyd. It's no wonder why she's worked with artists such as Ray LaMontagne, Ryan Adams, Jason Mraz, Connor Oberst and Mandy Moore. The musical layers add just the right flavor when needed – found in the form of string sections or horns. Her voice goes well with the whispered style of LaMontagne on "Duet." The second disc is five songs – including a few more upbeat pop songs that show her diversity as a singer, songwriter and artist. Yamagata can set a mood in slower songs and bring the right energy for the faster ones.

The Bad: Not to take anything away from artists like Norah Jones, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos or any of the other piano-playing songstresses, but why they are so well-known while Yamagata remains in the shadows is a mystery to me. It's also unknown why the album was delayed for more than a year from its original release date, but now that it's out, I can't complain.

The Verdict: A stunning album full of emotion – exquisite songwriting and plenty of musical depth. Her voice shines on the first disc, but the pop/rock sensibility of the second disc can't be ignored.

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