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Random Rules: Ingrid Michaelson

The shuffler: Singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson, the latest in a series of unsigned artists who have broken through thanks to the likes of MySpace, Grey's Anatomy, or Google. The night her song "Keep Breathing" aired during the final minutes of Anatomy's season finale, her MySpace page racked up 55,000 plays, and she became a popular search topic on Google. Her latest, Girls And Boys, is being distributed through Original Signal Recordings.

Neutral Milk Hotel, "Two-Headed Boy, Pt. 2"

Ingrid Michaelson:

Sonically, it takes some time to jibe with it, but I think it's one of those bands that once you really get past the almost-unpleasantness of it, it's pretty awesome. A lot of their songs are really jarring—there's so many things going on, and his voice, he does those octave leaps, like "Oh-wah," all the time. You don't like it at first, and then it clicks in your brain, and you're like, "This is ridiculously good."

  William Fitzsimmons, "You Broke My Heart"


This is a friend of mine, actually. I sing on his album. He's really awesome. He's kind of like… I hate to say "Iron and Wine-y," but he has a big beard. Like, people say that I sound like Lisa Loeb, because I have glasses. But there is a very, very soft folk, sweet vocal that he laces trippy electronic beats behind on some of his songs.

Esthero, "Half A World Away"

IM: This album is probably from about eight or 10 years ago. If I was to compare them to another artist, I would say sort of Portishead-y. A little bit of hip-hop. It's kind of bizarre, I can't quite explain it. I'm not good at explaining genres of music any more. Sort of loungey, almost, like loungey, hip-hoppy, without the rap. If that makes sense. I used to love watching Felicity. Love, love, I was obsessed with it. Before Grey's Anatomy, before The O.C., before any of those things, Felicity was playing music—they would show the name of the artist after the show was over, so that's how I found this band. I don't think it was this song; it was a different song they used on the show, but I really liked that song, and then at the end, when they said who it was, I went out and I bought it. Now it's like, "Google, there they are, iTunes, bought it, bam, done." I don't even have any of their other albums. I'm pretty bad about stuff like that. If I like somebody, I should have all of their albums, but I get lazy.

The A.V. Club: You stop with the hits?


I buy the album, but then I don't… Like, I was obsessed with Death Cab. I bought Transatlanticism. I played that CD so much; I was bleeding it and peeing it and everything. It was my daily ritual, and I'd never heard any of their other albums. My friend's like, "Can you just take these albums and listen to them?" I almost don't—it's so good to me, and I don't want to ruin it, almost. Part of me's like, "Nothing can be this good, and then I'm gonna look at them and be like, well, they're not as good as I wanted them to be." Most of the time, that's how it is. But I do like the other Death Cab albums.

Kate Nash, "We Get On"

IM: Oh, I got a good one! It's from her new album. I believe this is the song where she talks about how she wonders if she wants to be with this guy, and he doesn't really want to be with her, and kind of breaks her heart. She has a lot of wit. One of them is, "I meant to bump into you by accident, and I ended up bumping into you much harder than I planned, and it was quite embarrassing, and I think you thought I was a cunt," or something like that. She just says whatever she wants to say, and a lot of times, it's really harsh, but it's really funny and touching at the same time. Her melodies are really cool and kind of different—engaging. She had a song called "Dickhead," which is really funny. That's what actually attracted me—I saw that title, and I was like, "What's this song?" [Laughs.] But it's this really cool, descending jazz on an upright bass, like "What are you being a dickhead for? Stop being a dickhead!" It's just like, "Yeah, why are you being a dickhead?"

Priscilla Ahn, "Rain"


We're getting a very heavy dose of female singer-songwriters, 'cause here's another one. This is such a pretty song. She does this cool thing onstage where she incorporates a looping pedal into her songs, so it's just her onstage with her guitar or a uke, and she has like a little harmonica too. She has this voice that's like honey; it's just so beautiful. She layers these simple, sweet harmonies, and she doesn't overuse it. She's not doing it too much; it's just the right amount.

AVC: It seems like more singer-songwriters are using a sampler pedal like that.

IM: The first I ever saw that in mainstream was KT Tunstall doing it. And then everyone started saying, "What's that? I'm gonna do it!"

AVC: It gives every singer-songwriter who just has a guitar more to play with.

IM: Yeah, totally, and then it gives people more to listen to. It's hard when it's just you and an instrument. How does it not become kind of boring after the fourth song? It's like, "Aww, same voice, same instrument," you know? Me and a piano, singin' about a boy.

AVC: "We get it already!"


I've so been there before. Believe me.