Ingrid Michaelson may not be a household name, but it should be, and chances are even if you don’t own one of her albums, you’ve heard her music before licensed in commercials and heard on shows like Grey’s Anatomy. Those who are more familiar with Michaelson, know her not only for her chunky black glasses, but for her talent as an indie singer/songwriter. The songstress is a beautiful pianist, lovely vocalist, gifted lyricist, and can play a mean ukulele. She also pens rather amusing posts on twitter. On January 24th, Michaelson released her fifth album, ‘Human Again,’ which debuted at the top of the iTunes album chart. The songs on this album are tortured and emotional, but at times have a ray of hope eekeing through.
‘Human Again’ is different from its more poppy predecessors. This album has a stronger orchestral feel, and the songs sound less peppy and more lost and soulful. The first track on the album, “Fire,” leads with a intense string arrangement, which remains throughout the entire song. The opening lyrics, “Open heart surgery/ That is what you do to me/ Cut me up, set me free/ That is what you do to me,” sets the tone for the rest of the album. The tempo of “Fire” is quick fueling a sense of emotional urgency. The emotion of this first track continues for the entirety of the album.
Ingrid Michaelson’s Ghost
“I’m Through,” the fourth track of the album also opens with strings then melds seamlessly with Michaelson’s lyrics and piano accompaniment. The song tells the tale of a fruitless attempt of starting again after a failed relationship. The lyrics are heartbreaking: “I know there’ll come a time again/ When everything will fit right in/ And I won’t have to see your face/ In strangers on the street.” Michaelson’s distinct voice, sung in high register, punctuates this song with simplicity and meaning.
As the album continues, ‘Human Again,’ reveals songs that are really a bit tragic, but at times are matched with music that has a bit of that pop-flair that Michaelson is known for. Songs like “Black and Blue” and “Ribbons” have lyrics that are contradictory to their music. For example, behind the upbeat music of ‘Ribbons,’ Michaelson sings, “Told me he’d hold me ‘til there was no more/ Told me that he’d love me from the top to the floor/ Wrapped me up in ribbons then he went for the door/ Wrapped me up in ribbons then he went for the door.” Michaelson has quite a knack for interweaving the dark with the light.
“Ghost,” Michaelson’s first single from the album, may very well give Adele a run for her money in the “broken-hearted song” category – should such a category exist. The instrumentation of this song is amazing on its own, added to it are the lyrics, which are, fittingly, haunting. As she sings, Michaelson’s voice is both steady and desperate. The beginning lyrics to the song are suitably poignant, “Do you remember when the walls fell/ Do you remember the sound that the door made when you closed it on me/ Do you know that I went down to the ground/ Landed on both my broken hearted knees/ I didn’t even cry/ Because pieces of me had already died.” “Ghost” is very honest, and very few people are brave enough to admit ever having such raw feelings. This is the type of song that makes a person buy a ticket to see Ingrid Michaelson in concert, even if they have never heard any of her other music before; the song is just that enticing.
Admittedly, ‘Human Again,’ is not an album for every occasion. This is not an album that will act as an instant pick-me-up, but is more of an album when you’re feeling a little lost, or a little sad, or a little desperate. Ironically though, Michaelson’s music on this album does offer a sense of healing or at the very least a “misery loves company” vibe. It is a good album for a quiet day. Some of her fans may miss the poppy upbeat whimsy of her previous albums, but they will also appreciate the raw honesty that comprises the bulk of this album. ‘Human Again’ is worth checking out, just be conscious of your mood when you do, because although the music is compelling, the content is a bit depressing.
By Linda Turk