One of the most exciting singer-songwriters of the early '00s, Rachael Yamagata excels at both brooding ballads and alternative rockers. Along with her mixed heritage (she's Japanese-American), Yamagata's keyboard skills and crystal clear voice may have helped get the attention of record execs looking for the next Norah Jones. But, Yamagata has always set herself apart from the female singer pack with creations that are often psychologically and sonically darker than even Fiona Apple's. And Yamagata can -- and does -- rock hard, with an ear tilted toward creative indie sounds. Happenstance, Yamagata's 2004 debut, featured the adult alternative radio hit "Worn Me Down" and such fine songs as "Letter Read" and "1963." In between albums, Yamagata has also contributed to works by Bright Eyes, Jason Mraz, Ryan Adams and Rhett Miller (her duet on Miller's "Fireflies" is a standout). In 2008, she released Elephants...Teeth Sinking Into Heart, an album that is half baroque whisper, half scornful rocker -- and all good.