Ingrid Michaelson, indie-pop balladeer, has entered a new realm with her third album, Lights Out. Exploring new ground, Ingrid experiments with feisty rock songs and bigger production sounds on this album, abandoning her folksy origins (there’s not a single ukulele involved!), yet remaining faithful to her catchy alternative vibe.
Opening with the drum-fueled Home, the album starts on a high note (quite literally) with this spacy “Ooh”-filled melody. This builds into the second track and first single from the album, the brilliantly catchy Girls Chase Boys. Expect uncontrollable head bopping to this bouncy pop masterpiece about playing it cool when dating. Ironically cooing, “Don’t call me, I won’t call you / Let’s just call it off”, she mocks the ritual of playing hard to get.
This is followed by Wonderful Unknown, a beautiful love song to rival You And I in its portrait of a perfect relationship. The fact this song is a collaboration with her husband, Greg Laswell, gives this song an even more intimate and sincere feel, with beautiful layered harmonies on the line: “In the best way, you’ll be the death of me”.
Other strong songs include the punchy break up song, Time Machine (my pick for second single) with its killer chorus, funky brass section, and sassy lyrics (though listeners may want to know that Ingrid is still happily married). Warpath makes me imagine a Destiny’s Child collaboration with Shania Twain, with its bluesy harmonies, rhythmic clapping, and a darker sound than I’ve ever heard from Ingrid. The album closes with Everyone Is Gonna Love Me Now, a track that starts small and spacy and grows into a broad, drum-powered “Woah”-ing anthem. This song has an interesting melody and feels very vulnerable, with Ingrid musing, “Maybe I can go away / Where everyone is gonna love me now”. It is a subtle and unique song that grows on you after a couple of listens and feels like a fitting album closer.
Unfortunately, the album feels a bit too long (54 minutes – I tend to think an album shouldn’t run longer than about 45 minutes unless it’s a work of genius) and I lost interest somewhat towards the end, regaining it for the final track. As a result, this feels more like a collection of songs rather than a cohesive album. The songs do sit well together and there is definitely an aesthetic in the production and song structure that runs fluently throughout. However, I actually found this a bit repetitive since almost all of the songs follow a similar formula and have similar clean pop production. The album lacks variety for me because of this.
All in all, this is a quality album with many pop gems. Ingrid successfully incorporates new sounds from other genres into her repertoire and retains the catchiness and sincerity that has had listeners hooked since the beginning. As with most of Ingrid’s music, the album balances comfortably on the line between indie and pop, but is more pop-y than her previous work. I believe fans will be content.