Sunday, June 08, 2014

More of the same

album review

Artist: Ingrid Michaelson
Album: Lights Out

Ingrid Michaelson has mastered the art of making music for schmaltzy small screen melodrama; without a doubt, her claim to fame are her songs that have served as the aural backdrop of tear-jerking Grey’s Anatomy episodes, mushy One Tree Hill moments, and when heartbroken Pretty Little Liars curl up in bed and cry. With her sixth studio release, however, the indie pop darling is trying to prove that she is more than just a soundtrack artist, but does so without venturing too far from her established territory.

Despite her narrow range and often limited subject matter, no one can deny Ingrid Michaelson’s knack for coming up with moving, memorable melodies, and she offers plenty of those on her new record. Lights Out sees the singer-songwriter present a mix of mid-tempo toe-tappers and warm ballads. In effect, she is once again covering the expected ground and still writing songs about love, but now her words seem more assertive, her delivery more confident. A handful of indie guest vocalists also appear on a number of tracks, adding more flavors to the record while allowing Ingrid to stay in her safe zone.

Lights Out tries (and succeeds) to be effusively radio-friendly, particularly with songs like the infectious pop of lead single ‘Girls Chase Boys’, an undeniably irresistible earworm; the rock-tinged ‘Warpath’ and ‘Time Machine’ that will have you humming along immediately; the rousing ‘Afterlife’ which is armed with uplifting lyrics and a sing-along chorus; and subdued album closer, ‘Everyone Is Gonna Love Me Now’, a ballad which has an Abba-esque quality to it. The tracks that see guests lend their vocals to the tunes include the atmospheric ‘Wonderful Unknown’ featuring her husband, Greg Laswell; banjo-driven ‘You Got Me’ with Storyman; the catchy, mid-tempo ‘One Night Town’ featuring Matt Kearney; piano ballads ‘Open Hands’ and ‘Ready to Lose’ with Trent Dabbs (who also co-wrote six of the 14 songs on the album); and ‘Over You’ featuring A Great Big World, hot on the heels of their commercially successful collaboration with Christina Aguilera.

The duets are a nice touch, especially since her lovely voice blends well with the featured artists. That said, the collaborations also seem very safe as she is working with artists whose sound is very similar to her own, and the results are pleasant but predictable; a more diverse choice of artists could have made the project more adventurous.

But even with all that considered, Lights Out is still a very impressive and enjoyable pop album, with some beautiful melodies, many heartfelt moments, and lots of infectious pop overall. The album doesn’t really distinguish her from other indie pop singer-songwriters, making it highly unlikely that the set will win over her detractors, but it is guaranteed to appeal to her fans. And yes, you can easily picture many of these tunes playing during poignant moments on your favourite TV series, so rest assured that some of these songs will be coming to a TV set near you very soon.

- Sameen Amer 

Instep, The News on Sunday - 8th June, 2014 *

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