(Mom + Pop)
On Ingrid Michaelson’s latest album, Human Again, you won’t find the blissful love songs of records past. The musical elements work together to reflect a heavy heart and the lyrics echo themes of war, fire, blood, and “being through.” The NYC-based singer/songwriter has clearly gone through some hard knocks in the love department and it comes out in the honesty of the record. She has also grown musically, merging electronic production techniques with her tried and true folk pop roots.
The album opens with “Fire,” a driving rock song complete with a full string section and electric guitars, making the song the most striking departure from her previous work. She equates her attraction to someone being “like fire”—something dangerous, something to be cautious about. Ingrid uses her voice in new ways on this track, hitting higher, stronger notes.
She mellows out a bit on the next track, “This Is War,” because it’s not about the fights leading up to a break- up as one would suspect. It’s a song about the internal war that is waged post- break up, and our struggle to move on: “I won’t surrender, I will fight better.”
Ingrid leaves behind elaborate production choices on the stripped-down, love-weary, “I’m Through,” and produces one of my favorite songs on Human Again. She tells a story with the simplicity of her voice and her piano and tells it with heart- wrenching emotion. Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it, and Ingrid’s voice is a powerful emotional instrument that captures the subtlety of life’s moments. Maybe that’s why her music works so well in film and television.
While I appreciate the production values of Human Again’s more intricate tracks, I find that my favorite songs on the record are the ones where it is just Ingrid. I listened to the live versions of “Ribbons,” “End of the World,” and “Blood Brothers” much more than the produced versions, perhaps because there’s more of a focus on Ingrid’s voice, which stands strongly on its own.
Overall, Human Again is a fantastic album and Ingrid is a truly dedicated artist who experiments musically and somehow remains faithful to her folk pop roots. She doesn’t hide behind production. The song always comes first. Thanks to artists like Ingrid who keep it real, there is still music from “humans” out there, constructed upon a foundation of good melody and lyrics that tell a story.