Ingrid Michaelson
Lights Out


3.5
great

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
April 17th, 2014 | 33 replies


Release Date: 04/15/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: You and me we got this, you and me we're beautiful

Last week I came across a Newsweek interview of Ingrid Michaelson from 2009 in which she candidly expressed, “I get by, I fool people….they think I’m a lot better than I am.” She then admits that while she can produce some basic chords for the piano, ukulele, and guitar – she’s actually “not that good” at any of them. Ingrid has always been the kind of down-to-earth, self-sufficient songwriter that is well aware of her flaws and has never allowed them to become weaknesses. Perhaps it is the honesty that she upholds with herself that has allowed her to perfect her craft. Even if she is - by her own admission - an average musician, then her humble vision and creativity has allowed her to grow into a phenomenal artist. After all, she is anything but “not that good”, with her meek Myspace beginnings launching a critically acclaimed indie-songwriting career.

In a way, Lights Out harkens back to Michaelson’s philosophy during that old interview. It’s a very humble record, from start to finish. She abandons the string-tethered frills of Human Again, returning to the piano-laden roots of her past. One doesn’t need to look beyond ‘Beautiful Unknown’ to hear the resurgence of Ingrid’s wistful balladry, featuring a simple percussion-driven rhythm that is underscored by atmospheric classical piano notes. Her limber vocals wrap themselves around each note, progressing naturally within the song’s tempo to create the record’s standout “gem.” It’s the kind of lush ballad that you would imagine two people dancing to in an empty ballroom – with lyrics like “In the best way…you’ll be the death of me”, it is vacant yet so clearly full of hope. Michaelson is able to express so many emotions in this song, even though she doesn’t venture outside of a few basic chords…proving, once again, that humility with a clear vision triumphs over lofty aspirations with bare substance.

On Lights Out, Ingrid has several swings at the ballad plate. There are certainly a few noticeable misses (such as the overwrought ‘Ready to Lose’), but the occasional home runs are more than enough to offset those moments. One such example is the tremendous buildup present in ‘Handsome Hands’, from the eerily sung beginning to the pandemonium that it becomes- complete with crashing cymbals, French horns, and even a trumpet. Right before the chaos commences, Michaelson wails, “When the fallout comes we know the show must go…please just give to me your handsome hands, then I really won’t care where my body lands.” It’s classic Ingrid, pairing haunting lyrics with poignant music in a way that is incredibly memorable. She does enough of this to make Lights Out – a record deeply rooted in slower, romantically-inclined tunes – a rather unforgettable experience.

The successful upbeat tracks that have eluded Ingrid Michaelson’s career (save perhaps ‘Parachute’) strike on a pair of occasions this time. ‘Girls Chase Boys’ and ‘Afterlife’ fall outside the category of “whimsical ballad”, and both of them are excellent. The first is a vibrantly repetitive single with a chorus that will lodge itself in your memory for weeks. ‘Afterlife’ is a triumphant ode to tomorrow, defying thoughts of depression with triumphant shouts of “We’re gonna live tonight like there’s no tomorrow” and “You and me we got this, you and me we’re beautiful.” Moments like these are too few and far between to call Lights Out a balanced record. In fact, a better ratio of up-tempo songs to all of the slow, thoughtful and poetic ones would work miracles on any future Ingrid Michaelson record. But as it stands, this is still a humble work – one that remains true to Michaelson and the vision that she has for her music.

While I would be hesitant to apply any number of clichéd tags to this album - such as “a return to form” or “a cumulative resume of her previous works” – there does exist a certain sense of nostalgia that defines Lights Out as more of a “safe” record and less of a boundary-tester. However, that in no way means that Ingrid Michaelson is regressing. Even though Human Again had its fair share of supporters, it still felt as though Ingrid’s music was getting too big for its britches – attaching grandiose strings, orchestras, and all other kinds of fanfare to music that was, at its heart, very simple. This record is Michaelson coming to that realization, and directing her ambition towards heartfelt lyrics and instrumental moments of subtlety. If Ingrid Michaelson continues to focus on her strengths and refine her art, then we’ll all still be listening to her twenty-five years from now, marveling over how a self-proclaimed “not that good” artist made music that is this damn amazing.



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user ratings (27)
Chart.
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
krthll1 (3.5)
Ingrid Michaelson digs deep into her soul to create her most diverse record yet....


Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 17th 2014


16431 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Just dropping by.

Digging: Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright in the End

Green Baron
April 17th 2014


20000 Comments


still the site's most active emeritus

great review, probably won't check this out because that song of her's thats always on the radio is pretty offputting. If anything, this sounds like it could be compared to the Sara Bareilles album last year.

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 17th 2014


16431 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I started out reviewing this as a 3.5 but the more I wrote the more I convinced myself this is a 4. I don't expect everyone to think this is "excellent", but whatever.

tmagistrelli
April 17th 2014


734 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

this is awesome

dimsim3478
April 17th 2014


5182 Comments


hey Sowing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Digging: The Pillows - Moondust

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 17th 2014


16431 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Hey everyone!

If you want a track to check out, my favorite is Wonderful Unknown:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gir5ZvpGws8

hogan900
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2014


1646 Comments


Glad to see your still somewhat active. Always liked your taste so I better check this out.

Hopelust
April 17th 2014


1082 Comments


I put "girls chase boys" on a mix cd for the ladyfriend a couple months ago. Really good track, but I'm not sure if I listened to the rest of it. She seems like a pretty "stay true to herself" artist tho. I like her.

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
April 17th 2014


16057 Comments


i really liked the first song but 2nd song really annoyed me, liking her voice though

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

thepaintedalice
April 17th 2014


109 Comments


Great review as always, definitely gonna check it out.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 17th 2014


16431 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The third track is the best, Hopelust. And thanks everyone, I don't review as much anymore but I try to when I find the time!

silentstar
April 17th 2014


2274 Comments


liked the song you linked (wonderful unknown)

bit too slow for me, especially since summetime = happy, upbeat jams but glad to see you're still repping good music

Thanntos
April 17th 2014


321 Comments


Always had a slight crush on her, love girls with red hair. Shes awesome btw, have to get around to this.

I saw her husband Greg Laswell a few months ago for his new album, put on a fantastic show. Looking forward to all the collab songs.

mvdu
April 18th 2014


606 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review! Occasionally there is a bit too heavy production like on the otherwise beautiful "Home," but it's another excellent record from her. I feel the styles are also appealingly diverse, ranging from piano balladry to pop to blues rock to almost alt-country on "You Got Me."

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 18th 2014


16431 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks silentstar and mvdu

And yeah Thanntos, she definitely has a hot hipster nerd style going on.

TheGardener
April 18th 2014


150 Comments


Sweet review, will definitely check this

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
April 18th 2014


28645 Comments


she has grown off me, but still might check this out

Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love

Nikkolae
April 19th 2014


4860 Comments


been inclined to check her out for a while, guess here's as good as any, Wonderful Unknown sounds cute-ish

Digging: Cursed Graves - Western Blood

wwf
April 19th 2014


840 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I like the framing of the album art.

toxin.
April 19th 2014


12619 Comments


SS would I like this? been meaning to listen to new music



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