Rachael Yamagata's second album comes as a double, the nine moody love songs of Elephants followed by a burst of five more brusquely energetic rock songs on Teeth Sinking into Heart.
It's perhaps just as well, for as tenderly beautiful as the first set is, confirming Yamagata as a sultry modern torch-singer in the vein of Cat Power, on its own it tends to present her as a one-trick pony of somewhat melancholy cast, its soft alliances of guitar, piano and tasteful string and woodwind underscoring her tremulous vocals in a way that almost cripples tracks like "What If I Leave" and "Sunday Afternoon" with tastefulness. This, however, disguises some ugly emotional truths, as she conveys the despair of a bereaved parent in "Little Life" ("Can you tell me why this little life goes so fast?"), and in the title track employs an extended metaphor about the painful memories accumulated in an elephantine memory: "How dare you send me that card?... You are forcing me to remember, when all I want is to forget you". The second disc offers a more astringent view, from her ruthless attitude towards her "Sidedish Friend" and the old flame fallen on hard times in "Accident", to the bitter warning that brings things to a close, "Don't fuck me in front of me".
Pick of the album: 'Elephants', 'Sidedish Friend', 'Accident'