Before her endearing single "The Way I Am" became the soundtrack for Old Navy commercials, Ingrid Michaelson was another anonymous, witty musician singing tales of love and loss to an audience that didn't yet exist. She funneled that uncalculated energy into Girls and Boys, her debut offering of clever, twisting piano pop. Released independently on the singer's own label, Girls and Boys is a rare treat -- an album created without the constraints of a label or the demands of modern radio, yet wholly able to woo both. Michaelson clearly favors well-crafted pop melodies, but she ornaments these hooks with fractured instrumentation, shifting between time signatures during the chorus of "Masochist" and allowing guitars to drop out mid-song in "Die Alone." When she saunters into full-fledged coffeehouse mode with "The Way I Am," she subverts the song's Norah Jones-styled progression by adding handclaps, echoing harmonies, and quirky lyrics. "I'd buy you Rogaine when you start losing all your hair," Michaelson croons with a hint of vibrato, making the sentiment sweet instead of condemning. Brainy turns of phrase pepper the rest of the album ("Glass" describes a make-out session in sexy detail, with Michaelson recalling how she "rolled around on kitchen floors [and] tied my tongue in pretty bows with yours"), and Girls and Boys ultimately remains true to its title, examining the relationships between both titular characters without delving into too many grown-up issues. Perhaps Michaelson will compose a thematic sequel entitled Women and Men in the future, but these well-voiced love songs leave little room for complaint.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey