(07 June 2003) Is the music industry constantly pushing false images and manufactured anthems at teenage girls? Some have been hesitant to approach Michelle Branch and indeed it has been almost two years since her debut album was released. "She is clearly Maverick Records answer to Britney Spears," one teenager writes. Branch's debut album, The Spirit Room (Maverick Records (USA) 9 47985-3, 2001) is an enhanced eleven track collection of pop-oriented tunes. The material will certainly appeal Vanessa Carlton (review) and Avril Lavigne (review) enthusiasts.
Michelle writes with as much honesty and awkwardness as any teenage girl feels every day. The songs are quite relateable, and she doesn't seem to be some supergirl who peers could never aspire to be or meet or know. She's just a regular girl, singing regular songs about regular feelings. Since release, Branch has had profound success. A new album is scheduled for release mid-2003.
It's no surprise that "Everywhere" was the first single from the album. Pop radio has loved it for it's incredibly catchy hooks, and alternative radio has picked it up because it's a pretty girl with a guitar. A great song, Michelle's unique voice packs a ton of emotion. "You Get Me" is an the awkward teen girl song. These lyrics are amazing ('so i'm a little left of center/i'm a little out of tune/some say i'm paranormal/so i just bend their spoon/who wants to be ordinary/in a crazy, mixed-up world/i don't care what they're sayin'/as long as i'm your girl'), as though she's accepted her uniqueness and is embracing it, rather than hiding from it. Interestingly at home in The Gilmore Girls another track beat this one to the punch.
"All You Wanted" is a well-crafted song for teenage outcast girls to relate to. The poignant lyrics relate to a girl trying to save a boy from the popular crowd, who are so empty and shallow inside, because she knows he is more than that. In "You Set Me Free," despite lyrical mishaps, Michelle's vocal ability and lush--Corrs-like--vocal harmonies save this song.
In "Something to Sleep To" there is a change of pace from songs that rhyme love with above. Michelle's voice is haunting and melodic at the same time, and her confusion makes this more of a story than a song. The beats in "Here With Me" are more hip-hop than rock, which gives it an interesting feel. Lush layers of well-produced vocal harmonies return in the rocking chorus.
"Sweet Misery" is a reworked version of a track from Michelle's independant release, Broken Bracelet. The original version was a bit better, though less polished, and this heavily produced track falls a bit flat because it removed the guitar, angst feel from the original.
"If Only She Knew" resonates with everything falling into place, with the guitars, vocals and lyrics all working together. It will immediately convert fans of other pop chicks to Michelle's tunes. The thoughtful lyrics of "I'd Rather Be In Love" demonstrate a maturity beyond Michelle's eighteen year age. "Goodbye To You" is another girly, coming-of-age song. About breaking up with a first love, Michelle manages to capture all the contrasting feelings that go along with that situation in this heartbreaker.
The album concludes with the mellow "Drop In The Ocean," perfect to close the album. Michelle Branch has clearly made a mark since this album's release.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com
Michelle Branch continues to be one of the leading singers in pop music today.
Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this debut album is undoubtedly a must listen!