Over fourteen years and nine albums strong
The singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson captured our hearts and ears back in the mid to late 2000s with hits like “The Way I Am” and “Be Ok” that so easily encapsulated the whimsical folky sound that was prevalent in that era of music. Now, Michaelson jumps back onto the radar with her ninth studio album titled Stranger Songs. The album fits perfectly into the current trend of indie-pop music, brimming with moody vibes and upbeat songs that still manage to be a bit melancholy. Stranger Songs, inspired by the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, matches the show’s essence with strong ’80s influence and dark tones.
By sharing the same dramatic red font as the show, Michaelson pays tribute to the show and even references the famous lights scene in her song “Christmas Lights” that takes place between Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) communicating with her son Will Byers (Noah Schapp) with the lyrics “Apart but yet together/ but until then, I will talk to you through the Christmas lights.” The somewhat somber theme laced through the album is maybe the most evident in the song “Mother” that also seems to relate to the strong mother/son relationship in Stranger Things.
The lead single off the album, “Missing You,” is a great representation of the rest of the album with strong synths and Michaelson’s universal lyrics. Songs like “Jealous” and “Young in Love” are in that same vein and share an uptempo sound that makes it fit perfectly into an indie romantic comedy, which seems to be Michaelson’s signature.
However, people do catch glimpses of her old acoustic self. In songs like “Hate You,” we catch her more honest lyrics such as “I don’t hate you /I just hate how much I don’t hate you” and the minimum amount of instrumentation puts emphasis on her raw vocals and emotional vulnerability. This stripped-back style is fairly reminiscent of her earlier works. Michaelson even taps into the self-empowering movement that is very popular at the moment and takes it a step further with the song “Pretty” and makes it a girl anthem of sorts with lyrics like: “I’m not afraid of the world /I’m gonna fight like a girl” and “I’m not just pretty no/ I’m pretty damn good.”
While the album has sad, soft tones comparable to many Billie Eilish works mixed with an impactful ’80s rhythm similar to that of any Haim song, the clear-cut vocals and timeless relatability leave no doubt that it’s Michaelson behind every note and word. It’s no wonder she has lasted almost fifteen years in this ever-evolving industry. Michaelson’s talent and ability to reinvent and adapt to the times shines through in Stranger Songs.