Ingrid Michaelson
Human Again


2.0
poor

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
January 24th, 2012 | 46 replies | 10,433 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Emotive music signifying nothing.

When I first heard that Ingrid Michaelson was to team up with producer David Kahne for her fourth studio album, I could barely contain my excitement. The prospect of the talented songstress working alongside one of the chief engineers behind Imogen Heap’s early career success was quite delectable, and the subsequent release of ‘Ghost’ as a single only served to whet my growing appetite. Its rich, textured sound was everything I hoped for from Kahne, while Michaelson sounded as wistful and on-key as ever. Once the abstract, Picasso-reminiscent artwork was unveiled, I was convinced that this was going to be the artistic statement of Ingrid’s career. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon further readings, however, that I realized Human Again was designed for that exact purpose. Michaelson wanted this album to prove that she isn’t a kid anymore, and described it as “stepping across a boundary.” Even as the red flags rose in my mind, I continued holding out hope that this would be “one of those albums” that redefines pop by stepping outside of its rigid and predetermined confines. Considering how few and far between those types of albums are in this genre, I should have tempered my expectations significantly more.

Even though Human Again falls way short of its aspirations, it can’t be faulted for a lack of trying. It is evident from the get-go that the album shoots for the stars, intricately lacing itself with haunting strings, poignant orchestration, and glossy production that begs the listener to feel with it. ‘Ghost’ is one of the few instances that it succeeds, but the rest of the album is drowned in saccharine strings and undercooked ideas. The opener, ‘Fire’, is propulsive and tone-setting, but it lacks any extra push in the form of a memorable verse or seductive hook to leave a lasting impression. In a way, that’s kind of how the entire album rolls, introducing one important sounding track after another with very little real substance to tie everything together. Other songs are just mind numbingly repetitive and offer too little progression, like ‘Ribbons’, which garners little interest outside of the fascinating excerpt, “Told me that he loved me…wrapped me up in ribbons then he went for the door” – a unique analogy for “decorating” someone with promises then breaking those vows. Human Again has occasional lyrical gems as such, but they are largely indiscernible amidst the overall mediocrity of the music itself.

Another issue with the album is that its primary objective fails. Sure, Ingrid wanted this album to “cross boundaries” – but the only outstanding moments come when she reverts back to the very lighthearted, whimsical formula that she sought to grow out of on Human Again. Take ‘Keep Warm’, easily the record’s best track besides ‘Ghost’, for example. Following a rather tepid string intro, the song basks in a nourishing atmosphere comprised of Michaelson’s angelic voice (seriously, this girl is uncannily good at hitting high notes) and acoustic guitars. When it comes to the lyrics, they too slip back into her glory days with endearing relationship-themed imagery such as, “Some things you just can’t plan, like your hand in mine.” It makes sense for Ingrid to want to break out of that phase and converge on newer, more mature territory – but Human Again is simply too thin on ideas to accomplish that. ‘This Is War’ is bland and unmemorable, ‘Black and Blue’ feels like faux-funk at its worst, ‘I’m Through’ fills the obligatory role of cheese ballad, and even the highly-touted ‘Blood Brothers’ sounds a little too cyclical not to wear you down after a few listens. Ingrid’s greatest success comes when she imitates her trademark sound – the one she fostered during her Be OK and Girls and Boys heyday. The only problem this time is that those moments are delivered infrequently, and they exist only as a safety net in case her other experiments fail.

Those who know Ingrid Michaelson’s uplifting story (she refutes the term “rags to riches”) know how persistent she had to be in order to keep pushing towards her ultimate goal of becoming a professional musician. It takes a rather stubborn personality, and after 2009’s Everybody failed to catch fire, that may be what this maturity binge is all about. In an attempt to finally discover a new phase in her musical growth, Ingrid tries to manufacture emotion on Human Again…a task that is obviously dependent on the listener and not necessarily tied to how many dramatic strings and synths are utilized. The artificial sense that permeates as a result of the album’s forced nature may be its largest detractor, and it is one damning flaw whose shadow Human Again can’t seem to escape.



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user ratings (23)
Chart.
3.2
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
January 23rd 2012



15339 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Why why why

I was so excited for this : (

Stream:
http://music.aol.com/new-releases-full-cds/#/2

Oh well I'm still gonna listen the shit out of it because I love this girl

Digging: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2012



15727 Comments


whoa this is a surprise

Digging: Alvvays - Alvvays

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2012



15339 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

what, the rating or me giving an ingrid album this rating

Hep Kat
January 24th 2012



15018 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

my wife won't stop playing this

Digging: Sir Michael Rocks - Banco

Irving
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2012



7144 Comments


Is this really that bad, SS? I have friends who swear by Michaelson's levels of awesome, and was under the impression that this would slay for days and days and kick you square in the balls (to paraphrase Willie).

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2012



15339 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I love Ingrid Michaelson to death, but this really really let me down

Maybe my expectations were too high?

Irving
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2012



7144 Comments


I guess there's only one way to find out -

*loads stream* =)

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2012



15727 Comments


the latter of what you said

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2012



15339 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

ha that's what i thought

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2012



15339 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Yes. If anyone asks if they should check this out my answer will be yes because she is too awesome not to give a chance.

recommended tracks:

ghost
keep warm
blood brothers
fire
in the sea

bakkermaarten007
January 24th 2012



3304 Comments


What a coincidence, I've added 'Girls and Boys' to my wishlist yesterday.


SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2012



15339 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I'm actually kind of interested in seeing what the rest of the userbase thinks

I want to find out if it's just me, because normally I drool over Ingrid's music

Hopeland
January 24th 2012



275 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I refuse to believe this is a 2. I will find out when I get it later

Tyrael
January 24th 2012



20740 Comments


dammit Ingrid

god damn it

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2012



15339 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

you didn't like it either, tyrael?

Tyrael
January 24th 2012



20740 Comments


How shall I put this...

I feel like it's missing something compared to her previous efforts

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2012



15339 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

yeah man I know what you mean

Everything leading up to its release made it seem like it was going to be her chance to let her quirky, artsy side run wild

Then I heard it, and it was kind of just average indie-pop with even less Ingrid-ness than usual

Tyrael
January 24th 2012



20740 Comments


Oh well

gotta buck up and listen to Be OK to drown our sorrow I guess :]

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
January 24th 2012



9033 Comments


Bring back the picture!

Gyromania
January 24th 2012



15200 Comments


I don't know, Sowing - I find this to be incredibly endearing and exuberant for now. Her voice has a child-like cuteness about it that I just find irresistible. Good review though, however:

Even as the red flags rose in my mind, I continued holding out hope that this would be “one of those albums” that redefines pop by stepping outside of its rigid and predetermined confines.


This seems like an inappropriate and unfair way to assess the album, mainly because it seems like you had unrealistically high expectations to begin with. And this:

Another issue with the album is that its primary objective fails. Sure, Ingrid wanted this album to “cross boundaries” – but the only outstanding moments come when she reverts back to the very lighthearted, whimsical formula that she sought to grow out of on Human Again.


Feels, again, like you're unfairly reacting to it because it turned out differently than you (or the artist, although it's not that relevant) thought it would/should.



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