So far 2012 has been a year of new music. I’ve purchased three albums that also happen to be relatively new releases, and I thought it was time for their blog moment in the sun.
I’ll start with my most recent acquisition: Ingrid Michaelson‘s Human Again. It’s gotten press for being somewhat different from her previous albums. In my opinion, it’s hands-down her best since Girls and Boys (2006). With its two cover songs and three live recordings, Be OK (2008) seemed like a hastily thrown together followup to a breakout record. Everybody (2009) was released less than a year later, and while it was a more traditional studio album, her songwriting just didn’t capture my attention as it had on Girls and Boys. As I mentioned in a Best of 2011 list, Ingrid tends toward lyrical and musical simplicity, and sometimes she is very successful with that tactic (see “The Way I Am”). However, I felt like her last two albums were relying too much on cuteness over cleverness.
Human Again was released two-and-a-half years after her last album, and the extra time and effort shows. It shows in production value, but more importantly it shows in song selection. This feels like a complete album, as opposed to a few quality tunes and a lot of filler. Ingrid has proven herself capable of subtlety as a songwriter, infusing deceptively simple love songs with darker undertones. For example, the first song on Girls and Boys is called “Die Alone.” It’s ostensibly about having found love, but “You make me feel like maybe I won’t die alone” isn’t necessarily the most optimistic sentiment. And I loved that about her: the odd combination of whimsy and cynicism.
I don’t think that Human Again should feel like a departure for Ingrid fans of yore. I see it as a return to form. It has the highs and lows of a balanced album, the fast-paced moments of happiness or anger and the slowed-down moments of sadness or romance.
Two of my favorites are “Ribbons” and “End Of The World.” “Ribbons” is one of several feisty breakup songs and contains some of those deceptively simple lyrics that I love. It recalls the flying metaphor found in the song “Parachute,” but reveals that love was not such a parachute after all: “I’m not flying / I’m not flying, am I?” And don’t tell me I’m reading too much into it because I’m quite pleased with the idea that I am not.”End Of The World” is simply irresistible because it was inspired by watching zombie apocalypse movies. A zombie apocalypse love song!
Another standout track is “Ghost,” which just happens to have this lovely lyrics video to accompany it. Ingrid fans and curious blog readers, I hope you enjoy.