First Impressions Aren't Always Correct
I was first introduced to 17 year old singer/songwriter Michelle Branch via a medium I normally wouldn't give any credence to: the bastian of teenage television known as TRL. I was flipping channels one day when I came across a young female singing a pop song. "Jesus Christ, not another one," was my first thought. However, when the next scene showed her jamming with a band, including her strumming a guitar, I was intrigued. And after listening to the song over in my head, I thought it had a lot more substance than I ever would've believed.
Delays and Prods
Unlike previous encounters with new artists, this one wasn't going to be as easy. I am one broke as* mofo right now, so buying new CDs isn't exactly easy. Therefore I had to put in a request for this CD at the library and just wait. Meanwhile, I read my colleague kristinafh's review and well, I must say she convinced me this was at the very least worth waiting a couple weeks to be available for me to borrow from the library.
YaY! It's Available
Finally I picked this up when it was in for me. Then, stupidly, after having it for four weeks (two weeks longer than I was supposed to), I still had no review up. Yeah, procrastination is a wonderful thing. At the same time, I didn't feel I knew the album well enough. So I did what any Napster loving American would do: I burned myself a copy of the disc on the CD burner. For those of you who have a problem with this, I say f*** off.
Finally, The Album
On my first listen to this, I wasn't too warm to it. The songs didn't excite me, they didn't speak to me, they seemed rather stale and generic. Michelle has a great voice, but it seemed something was missing.
As I continued to listen to the album, something happened. Stress. Stress s*cks. It is the worst thing on this planet. Because I was stressed out, and feeling mightily overwhelmed, I was stuck in a depression rut that hadn't been this bad since I was 14. Looking for something that wasn't too aggressive to listen to on my way home from school, I grabbed this disc.
When I put the album on my headphones, I skipped the first single, Everywhere. It's the most upbeat song on the record, definitely a great pop song, but I had heard it a million times on the radio and I just was sick of it. So I skipped right ahead to the second track, You Get Me. Regardless of what I think the song is truly about, I don't know if a song has ever hit me as hard as some of the lyrics did from this song, Pearl Jam's Release excepted.
So I'm a little left of center...I'm a little out of tune...(lyric snippage)...who wants to be ordinary in this crazy mixed up world?
God I love those lines. They speak exactly to who I am and spoke even clearer to me in a time where I needed that. They say music is the "healing art." It's lines and times like that where I believe it.
The third track, All You Wanted, is the type of song I would've written when I was 17 or 18. (For those wondering, yes I do write songs/lyrics/poems) The spiritual essence (hence the title of the record, The Spirit Room) of the song is fabulous. Her voice sounds exquisitely passionate and full of determination. This is the type of song that egomaniac Scott Stapp wishes he could write.
You Set Me Free reminds me a lot of the Corrs. The vocal harmony sounds remarkably like them, and the music isn't much different either. I do like some of the lyrics though, and I particularly like the simple chord progression coming out of the chorus.
At this point of the CD, it's become hard to tell where the he*l Michelle's influences come from. It's easy to read a bio and see bands like The Beatles listed as an influence, but let's be honest. That influence hasn't been heard yet on this record, until track 5, Something to Sleep To. It's one of my least favorite tracks on the record. It sounds so much like the Beatles, Oasis could probably do it.
Track 6, Here With Me, is the most fake track on the record. As in fake drums, fake everything, except for her voice. I don't like this song at all, but it's still a tad better than the last song.
The mini-slump ends there though. The second half of the record is full of interesting songs that will not only have you singing along, but songs that will put a smile on your face because of the fabulous lyrics. (Well, let me qualify that: some of the lyrics to If Only She Knew are total cr*p.)
For my money, the two tracks that make this album one of the best I've heard in recent years are the closing two tracks, Goodbye to You and Drop in the Ocean, both of them rather slow, but they build nicely, especially Drop, which is, no joke, no questions asked, possibly the best song I've heard this year that wasn't released as a single.
Maybe in two months I won't feel the same way about this album. Maybe in two months the words will feel as meaningless as they did a couple months ago. But right now, some of these songs make me feel like I belong again, and I don't think enough can be said for that. You're crazy if you don't at least give this disc a chance to cheer you up and make your day.