Ingrid Michaelson, Human Again

Ashley Melzer

By Ashley Melzer

on 01.25.12 in Reviews
Hitting a sweet spot with off-the-cuff emotional honesty

Shuffle through the back catalog of Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson and you’re bound to feel a bout of déjà vu. Flashbacks to the lovestruck halls of Grey’s Anatomy’s Mercy Hospital, voices of American Idol participants past, and that commercial you can’t remember but can’t stop humming are bound to appear. There’s no question: Michaelson excels at licensing. There’s also no doubt she wipes the floor with any pop melody that springs to mind. The secret to her charm may be her way with off-the-cuff emotional honesty. A casual observation like the way “we hate the rain when it fills up our shoes,” but “love when it washes our cars” is paralleled with thoughts of love filling up the room or leaving us to “curse the stars” (“How We Love”). Other songwriters wring their hands over how to craft the perfect enigmatic turn of phrase, but Michaelson simply burrows into glimmering simplicity: “It’s cold outside, but I’m just fine. You are mine to keep warm,” she sings in “Keep Warm.” Pithy lyrics that are often adorable and always ear-catching are nothing new (see: “The Way I Am” from her debut). What is new is the range of texture and ambition. Anthemic opener “Fire” features a glut of strings; the saucy “Black and Blue” hangs on the steady slap of the percussion; pop/rock single “Ghost” is a bittersweet swell of vocals, keys and strings. Each track features an orchestral frill or vocal lilt that adds a layer of complexity. Human Again may not depend on the sweet shrift that’s so characterized her repertoire so far, but it hits a sweet spot nonetheless.