Ingrid Michaelson: “Alter Egos” EP Review

Written By: Hayley Mierzwa

Twitter: @hayls_mierz Instagram: @haylsmierz

After its release in February 2014, “Girls Chase Boys” is a song that we still hear on the radio. Ingrid Michaelson has a handful of songs that seem to transcend time. It’s been ten years since the release of “The Way I Am,” and nine years since “Be OK,” which entered the Billboard 200 chart at #35, but both of these songs are instantly recognizable by almost anyone. If you didn’t think you knew Ingrid, you probably do now. Her latest release, “Alter Egos,” is an exploration of deep, and often sad, emotion.

“Whole Lot of Heart” is the first track on this record, and if features Tegan Quin of Canadian duo Tegan and Sara. Knowing both artists, I was excited to see that this collaboration was the first song. Tegan and Ingrid’s voices are an excellent pairing, with some very similar nuances and timbres. Harmonies are a prominent feature of both artist’s sound, which makes their styles compatible for a song like this. You’ll take the journey with them from the slow piano chords at the beginning to the more upbeat ending, through the string pizzicato and percussion beat that comes in around the halfway mark.

“I Remember Her,” featuring Lucius, is a heartbreaking track about Michaelson’s mother who lost her battle with cancer, though that is not explicitly stated in the lyrics. You can so clearly hear the sadness in Ingrid’s voice as she sings, “I remember her so well / but things, they fade.” She paints vivid pictures of her childhood home and memories, singing about the harsh truth that even the things we love after loss can slip away.

The next track opens, “You can’t lie / Words stay once said,” and it is clear we’re getting another picture of Ingrid’s memories. The song “Drink You Gone,” featuring John Paul White, is a lolling recollection many of us are familiar with, asking, “How do broken hearts get strong?” – something almost everyone has to ask themselves at one point or another. It clearly is not through the vices mentioned, which many people turn to when a relationship goes wrong.

The next track is a classic duo – Ingrid pairs up with longtime friend Sara Bareilles for the song “Miss America.” It’s an outright rejection of being told what to do, embracing “coloring outside of the lines.” This song serves as a bit of a transition from the the first three tracks, providing the “I’m choosing me” stepping stone between heartbreak and the happiness present in the final track. “There’s so many ways to be beautiful,” and that contagious positivity caries into the last song, “Celebrate.” This is a collaboration with the NYC-based band AJR, known for the eclectic style of their homemade Indie pop. It is a happy kind of reminiscing, a departure from the first few tracks. Both “Miss America” and “Celebrate” have clear influence from the collaborators, with the nonverbal vocal lines in the former (a Sara B signature) and the wide variety of sounds and production effects in the latter.
Ingrid Michaelson packs a serious emotional journey into only five songs on this EP, all of which are collaborations, which I like to think of as a nod to the universality of the emotions explored. With a variety of collaborators and sounds, this record is an enjoyable listen for anyone familiar with the music of Michaelson, Quin, or Bareilles, and an interesting new listening experience for pretty much anyone else.