Last month Ingrid Michaelson took to her twitter, announcing her upcoming EP, “Alter Egos.” The surface context of this record is in the name. “Alter Egos” is an extended play made up of duets between Ingrid and some of our other favorite artists.
“Alter Egos” is a reimagining of five songs from her last release, “It Doesn’t Have To Make Sense.” For it, Michaelson has enlisted the vocal contributions of some of her contemporaries. Some of which happen to be her equally talented friends.
Featured are the likes of Tegan and Sara, John Paul White, Lucius, AJR, and the long-awaited return of a second duet with Sara Bareilles. The last time the two collaborated was on their co-written ballad, “Winter Song.” And the majority of us have been anticipating more ever since. Their voices play off each other like they were made exclusively to do just that. On listening to “Alter Egos,” it’s safe to say that vocal symbiosis is the deeper running theme of this EP.
Opening with “Whole Lot of Heart,” the first track features Tegan and Sara. This gives the record the low-key opening I’d put money on featuring in a network TV series sometime soon. Ten years ago, if you give me the brief opportunity to speak personally (from over the top of a way-too-big acoustic), this combination would’ve been my highest priority “want.” Today I discovered that desire has unexpectedly held up, and “Whole Lot of Heart’s” opening chords and their matching wordless melody have kickstarted Friday in the bad-good Way (I made that phrase up) with Feelings.
Lucius joins Ingrid on the second track, “I Remember Her,” written around the loss of her mother and all of the memories from being younger. This song is a hidden stage of grief, and Lucius’ harmonies contribute to the mournful realizations that come gradually from the beginning of the song to the end. The end calling back to the beginning, like the poetic, cyclical manner life has and is. Except it’s not completely cyclical. Not when there’s a hole as large as losing a parent that’s been forged into a person’s narrative forever.
The song focuses on the gradual degradation of memory. With time, as she says in this track, we never forget it all completely (things they fade/things turn to grey/as much as I try to save them) but the loss of a soul you’ve loved no longer being earthbound alongside you, will always make you worry about forgetting them completely. “I Remember Her” will help her remember.
INGRID MICHAELSON – WHOLE LOT OF HEART (ft. TEGAN AND SARA)
The third track, a remaster of “Drink You Gone” features the Civil Wars’ John Paul White. “It Doesn’t Have To Make Sense” was an album that combined the themes of death and divorce. Two very different means of loss. And what “I Remember Her” is to death and heartbreak, “Drink You Gone” is to divorce and heartache.
The bitter breakup album now ex-husband Greg Laswell released had many of us wondering what route Ingrid would take in response. Well, she took the high road, and “Drink You Gone” (like a sinking ship as the band plays on) serves as a companion piece to “I Remember Her” in that she’s once again found examining the potentially impossible prospect of forever.
“Miss America” (featuring Sara Bareilles) is the track that was released in advance of the EP. These two women are women whose harmonies are bound together on a plane that isn’t reachable for the rest of us. “Miss America” picks up musically where “Winter Song” left off: in the place in which music comes from before it takes form.
Examining themes of self-realization (I’m always coloring inside of the lines/I’m always crashing into something) and the acceptance that comes with it (there’s so many ways to be beautiful), “Miss America’s” message is one to Ingrid herself, to the subjects that inspired last year’s album, and most importantly, to us as girls. To us as women. As people. As living.
The last track on the EP shakes up the retiring, slow pace of the previous four songs, remixed by indie trio AJR. “Celebrate” sounds just like what you’d imagine its title to sound like. Paying homage to some of Michaelson’s earlier work with its musicality and production, “Celebrate” also calls back to this in its lyrics (this is my throwback song/this is the music that makes me better).
“Celebrate” is an upbeat end to the record. A closing chapter that breaks up what began as a melancholy journey into turning her last album on its head. As an offbeat narrative.With the kind of song that signifies a brand new metaphorical book-of-life. “Celebrate”, in its joy, explores the themes of the other songs (love, loss, heartbreak, mortality) and why none of those are the end of anything. And what a way to pause than asking, what if I just don’t care?
INGRID MICHAELSON – CELEBRATE (ft. AJR)
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