June 28, 2004 12:00 PM

Rachel Yamagata

On her full-length debut, singer-song-writer Rachel Yamagata shows that it was more than just Happenstance that she got a record deal. Having spent five years in the Chicago funk band Bumpus, Yamagata, 26, released a self-titled solo EP last year. She follows that up with this 13-track set of dreamy folk-pop that alternately brings to mind a jazzier Sarah McLachlan, a funkier Norah Jones or a younger Rickie Lee Jones. With her smoky vocals, Yamagata lights a quiet fire under moody, melancholy tracks such as the country-tinged “Paper Doll” and the wistful, waltz-like “Be Be Your Love.” Yamagata, who plays keyboards and the occasional tambourine on the CD, is surrounded by a quirky mix of trumpet, clarinet, banjo and violin on the whimsical “I Want You.” French horn and cello pop up on the bittersweet ballad “I’ll Find a Way.” Yamagata’s lyrics are dipped in heartache and romantic yearning. “You may hate me, but I’ll remember to love you,” she sings on the hushed “Quiet.” Happenstance was produced by John Alagéa, who was also behind the boards for John Mayer’s hit Room for Squares. And with this disc, Yamagata may have established herself as the next big singer-songwriter.

FOLK-POP

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