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Album Review: Ingrid Michaelson - Human Again

31 August 2012 | 3:32 pm | Michael Smith

Not that she’s become a roaring rock singer of course, but there’s a confidence that allows for big choruses and notes that reach out to better express the human emotion behind the lyric.

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This third album from Staten Island-raised singer/songwriter and daughter of a classical composer, Ingrid Michaelson, sees her ramp things up almost exponentially from the almost timid vocals of her first two albums to really stretch out vocally. The result is a bigger, bolder yet still personal and empowering set of songs that are likely to surprise her fans.

Working with Regina Spektor's producer David Kahne, whose speciality is string arrangements, Michaelson dives straight into the emotional darkness with “Open heart/surgery/that is what/you do to me” kicking off opening track, Fire, against the sawing of those strings. But then comes “Cut me up/set me free/that is what/you do to me,” and the template is set, thematically, for the whole album. Love may sour and breaking up destroy, but from the ashes a stronger person arises – if there's a message or a theme across Human Again, that's it. And this is very much an empowered Michaelson, ready to sing out rather than take the usual, almost apologetic, singing style that prefers to whisper or deliver a melody meekly and prettily.

Not that she's become a roaring rock singer of course, but there's a confidence that allows for big choruses and notes that reach out to better express the human emotion behind the lyric. “I won't surrender” is the rallying cry in This Is War, where perhaps once she might have done. It's like Michaelson has given herself permission to shine – and she does. There are still the gentler moments, as in the quietly aching introspection of I'm Through, Keep Warm or How We Love, which all the more powerful because of the contrast to the more ebullient pop moment of, say Blood Brothers, the quirky darkness of Black And Blue, or the rattling drum-powered In The Sea.