Review Summary: The unknown gem in Ingrid Michaelson's discography.
Later in Ingrid Michaelson's career, she started using acoustic guitars and ukuleles to help her short burst into mainstream popularity. Her music was mainly composed of upbeat, acoustic diddies, with deeper meanings than many people realized. But this CD isn't from Ingrid's future career. This is "Slow the Rain", Ingrid's very first album. And what an album it is.
You can spot the main difference in this album from the rest of Ingrid's discography just by listening to the first five seconds of each song. What you'll hear is piano at the beginning of almost every song, and if you continue to listen on, you'll find the whole song is piano driven. There are barely any guitars to be fund on this album. It's just driven along by Ingrid's voice and piano playing with bass and a simple percussion section. And those simplistic instruments make quite the beautiful noise. Many of the songs seem as if Ingrid is just improvising as she plays the piano. She'll play a little bit, get quiet, take a pause, and then you get another burst of piano. This is especially evident on album highlight "Porcelain Fists." This is one of the most simplistic, yet hauntingly beautiful, tracks on the CD. It starts out with Ingrid on the piano, then a quiet string section comes in and a man softly humming in the background. Finally, Ingrid comes in with powerful lyrics, such as the chorus: "Take my hand, you're treading water/I feel I am slipping away from underneath my toes/Nobody knows Where is it she goes?"
That is one of the other things that makes this album a hidden gem. The lyrics are simply superb. The song "Charlie" is about Charlie Brown, but she takes instances from the popular comic strip and is able to craft a story that makes you think of the rejected child that you may have known in school. She's able to make an entire story out of a 4 minute song. It is quite a skill to be able to do that at the tender age of 26. "Mosquito", however, is able to craft that story in order to make the highlight of the album. Ingrid sings about a man that she actually loved, while that man only wanted to use her. As she sings "Are you Poison?" over and over at the end of the song, she sounds so genuinely heartbroken, that it seems as she's a close friend telling you about her problems. The instrumentation is also at a high point at this song. There's the piano as always, but it's accompanied by various background sounds. There's the sound of a mosquito buzzing, the vocals overlapping each other, and an effect that just adds eeriness to the end of the song.
The closing track, "I'll See You In My Dreams", is the perfect ending to a near perfect album. It's more reminiscent of Ingrid's later albums, with just a ukulele accompanying Ingrid and another man singing with an effect that makes their voices sound like it's coming out of an old time radio. It's just such a happy, simplistic song that it raises your hopes for the future after a somber album. It also tells the story of Ingrid's life, simple, yet sweet. It sets up her future career to try and match her amazing debut album, which in my opinion, has not yet been matched by her future releases.