I don't think I'm alone in hating CDs that hijack my computer and launch annoying, screen-hoarding Flash interfaces, so Happenstance
pissed me off before I'd even heard it. There's even a license agreement to accept. This isn't an album -- it's an Entertainment Solution. In a rare forward-thinking moment, the Flash interface actually permits users to copy the disc to their hard drives, but -- and this is significant -- it exerts complete control over the process. Simply listening to the disc on my computer, where I do the lion's share of my reviewing, required me to play the tracks one at a time using Happenstance
's annoying interface (there's a "play all" button, but it doesn't let you skip forward). Boo! Hiss!
Even so, I don't hate Yamagata's music quite as much as our last reviewer did; I have a soft spot for "Worn Me Down", mostly because it sounds like it belongs in one of those cozy romantic films where a quiet, awkward, goofy-looking guy wins the heart of a gorgeous girl because the strength of his character was revealed at a crucial moment. The version featured here is not the one from Yamagata's recent EP; it has been stripped of much of its production gloss, and, perversely, is not as appealing as the tooled-up version.
As for the other twelve songs...the smoky-voiced Yamagata sounds like Norah Jones, or Fiona Apple, or whoever she's required to sound like on each track. There's nothing wrong with her performance -- it's just undistinguished. You'll remember a handful of songs, like the gypsy-jazz-flavored "I Want You", due to their modest musical inventions, rather than any quirk of Yamagata's teflon-coated performance. Like so many Entertainment Solutions, Happenstance has a short shelf life.