wears the trousers magazine


ingrid michaelson: everybody (2009)
August 31, 2009, 10:45 am
Filed under: album, review, video | Tags: , , ,

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Ingrid Michaelson
Everybody •••½
Cabin 24

It doesn’t take a genius to put together a list of principal cultural exports of the United States of America: basketball, fast food restaurants, Hollywood movies, shopping malls, comic books. Surely though, any reappraisal of the list must include the States’ penchant for producing FM adult-orientated rock and pop music, with a particular eye on female vocalists. The list is dizzying and far reaching: Lisa Loeb, Vanessa Carlton, Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson to name but four of the more well known on these shores. To this list may soon be added one Ingrid Michaelson, if the lovely playlist compilers at BBC Radio 2 stumble across the 29 year-old New Yorker any time soon.

Michaelson is nothing if not prolific; Everybody is her fourth release in as many years. Demonstrating an undeniable knack for melody and catchy pop, it’s a collection that’s varied in both mood and vibe. Michaelson seems equally at home with outright sunny pop (‘Everybody’) or melancholy (‘Are We There Yet’), and there are some thoughtful lyrics on offer, many of them suggesting a relationship break up. If there is any significant pain in these songs though, it is thickly shrouded in bright melodies, layered vocals and full, singalong choruses which run right through the record. Songs like ‘Once Was Love’, which brings to mind The Pretenders’ ‘Brass In Pocket’ on the intro, easily distract the listener with jaunty tunes and disturbingly singable vocal melodies while smuggling decidedly dark lyrics such as “Everyone is hurting now / and everything is burning down” beneath a blanket of dense, lush arrangements.

Michaelson’s words are even slightly reminiscent of Joanna Newsom at times, with the chief example coming in album centrepiece ‘The Chain’ (“My bones are shifting in my skin / and you, my love, are gone”), and the spectre of Newsom is also conjured up on several other tracks, with flourishes of harp and in Michaelson’s vocal inflections. A line about an “angry apple tree” in ‘Locked Up’ doesn’t exactly serve to dispel the occasional similarity either. There is, however, significant artistic distance between the two; Michaelson is grounded firmly in the mainstream, and seems to be having much more fun when she’s there, such as on the cascading piano of the Regina Spektor-like ‘Sort Of’, or the instantly accessible ‘Mountain & The Sea’.

There are suggestions on Everybody that Michaelson is capable of writing some exceptional lyrics and undoubtedly accessibly tunes, but it’s impossible to escape the feeling that she would benefit greatly from a deconstructive approach; many of the words on offer are powerful and poetic, but are lost among the dense production which renders them mere footnotes to the kind of songs your mother might sing while doing the ironing. This seems like a waste – with a more conservative approach to production, the potential of many of these songs would be unlocked, yielding an intimate, personal record that would lose none of its marketability. Ingrid Michaelson might be aiming for the big time, but the cost to art could be great.

Matt Bregazzi
UK release date: 25/08/09; www.myspace.com/ingridmichaelson

‘Maybe’


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[…] 30/8] 09 Dolores O’Riordan – No Baggage [Matt Barton 10/8] 10 Ingrid Michaelson – Everybody [Matt Bregazzi […]

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