I must admit, I just began listening to Ingrid Michaelson. Her sixth album, Lights Out, was shown to me by a friend. Though the music initially gave me an eerie feeling of shopping at the local Anthropologie store, I began to understand why my friend was a fan. Filled with reflective ballads backed by a percussion-driven rhythm, Lights Out displays Michaelson’s affinity for witty lyrics coupled with catchy background music.
I had always known Michaelson for her fuzzy, feel-good coffeehouse music, a quality which I definitely found this on the album. The first two tracks on the album, “Home” and “Girls Chase Boys,” are full of the whimsical and light background music and lyrics that I had expected from Michaelson’s music.
Listening to Michaelson’s soft voice singing “This is my home / Where I go when I have nowhere else to go” on “Home,” harkens back to the aura of comfort and happiness that comes across in “The Way I Am” from 2006’s Girls and Boys, perhaps Michaelson’s biggest commercial hit to date.
Even so, as the album progressed, I was surprised when she showed a deviation from the feel-good songs that made her popular.
There’s still the inescapable wit of “Be OK” and “Everybody,” but she takes a slightly different approach to the tunes this time around.
“Wonderful Unknown,” which features singer-songwriter Greg Laswell, creates an entrancing slow tempo that brings the listener on a journey with Michaelson “into the dark and wonderful unknown.”
Laswell’s appearance on the track only promulgates this solemn vibe, as his deep voice balances Michaelson’s airy voice perfectly to create a wonderful chemistry.
But that was far from the only surprise on Lights Out.
On “Handsome Hands,” the tremendous build-up with her atypical vocals accompanied by singular drumbeats and a monotone backdrop created a track that was far more intense than I previously thought Michaelson was capable of.
The sad ballads on this album are also executed wonderfully and gave a real glimpse into Michaelson’s search for love and coping with a loss of love.
“Open Hands,” which features singer-songwriter Trent Dabbs, is strikingly emotional and relatable.
As Michaelson mourns over a lost love, crying out “Now go on and drift away / The tide can hold you out,” it’s hard to not feel a twinge of empathy.
She continues to stray from the feel-good with her track “Over You,” which features the band A Great Big World.
Her sultry voice conveys the universal pain of trying to get over someone, although I personally did not find A Great Big World to be a complementary voice.
Overall, Michaelson delivered on this album.
Although her old-time fans may not enjoy this new, slightly darker version of Michaelson, I found that the emotional tracks were a great new dynamic.
Her album was cohesively diverse with all tracks bearing her signature sound while still reaching a larger emotional range.
– By Saher Fatteh