For nearly three years, Ingrid Michaelson toured in support of Girls and Boys, a popular album whose songs popped up everywhere from Old Navy commercials to TV sitcoms. Michaelson was similarly omnipresent, opening for the likes of Jason Mraz in Europe and headlining her own shows at home. It's appropriate, then, that 2009's Everybody -- her first album as a genuine star -- amplifies all the elements that made Girls and Boys endearing. Michaelson is no longer a part-time waitress with a songwriting habit; she's a seasoned road veteran, acutely aware of what it takes to invest her audience, and Everybody often plays like a greatest-hits album. The lovelorn ballads -- which comprised the bulk of Girls and Boys -- occupy less space here, and the ones that do make the final cut are smartly laced with strings and layered guitar. There's a sweeping feeling to these songs, a sense of grandeur that was lost in the intimate, minimalist performances on Michaelson's debut. Perennial live favorite "The Chain" also makes an appearance, having previously shown up on Ingrid's stopgap release Be OK, and its climatic refrain points to the singer's ability to turn a slow ballad into something cinematic. Even so, Everybody's strongest assets are its upbeat pop tunes. Michaelson has graduated from the coffeehouse to the concert hall, after all, and tracks like "Soldier" -- with its deliberate phrasing and neo-military percussion -- aim for the cheap seats at the back of a venue, a place that Girls and Boys only occasionally reached. "Everybody," a campfire singalong fueled by strummed ukulele, could be the female answer to Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours," while "Mountain and the Sea" is downright irresistible, its handclapped rhythm and buoyant chorus combining to create Michaelson's strongest song to date. The only potential concern (and we're splitting straws here) is the absence of Allie Moss, Michaelson's ubiquitous touring partner and indispensable harmony vocalist, but Everybody rarely stumbles in her absence, with Ingrid double-tracking her own harmonies -- as she's done on every previous record -- instead. Rarely does an independent album sound so assured, so polished, and so agreeable.
Andrew Leahey, Rovi