If you had told me that I would be listening to a brand new album from Michelle Branch in 2017, I wouldn’t believe you. After the countless setbacks with her last two records which resulted in them never being released, I had lost all faith that we’d ever get new music. But now, Branch is on a brand new label and her first album in fourteen years ‘Hopeless Romantic’ is available to buy now. The big question is how does Michelle Branch – the undeniable queen of noughties rock-pop fit in the music landscape of 2017?
Let’s just get this out of the way. If you’re coming into this record and expecting ‘Everywhere 2.0’ then you’re going to be disappointed. This is not the Michelle Branch that you once knew. This is the new and improved Michelle Branch. That’s not to say that this album isn’t a ‘Michelle Branch’ record, it’s just a side of Branch that we haven’t seen before.
Before the album was released, I was a little concerned that I wasn’t going to love it. I liked all of the pre-release tracks but nothing truly wowed me. But within the context of the album, they all work brilliantly. This is definitely the sort of album that is a cohesive body of work, each song compliments the tracks both before and after it. This does mean that there is no particular stand out ‘hit’ on the album but would you really want a ‘hit’ in there knowing it would break the flow of the album? I certainly wouldn’t.
The album opens with current single ‘Best You Ever’, a biting attack on her ex. It’s packed with grunge guitars and plenty of attitude. ‘You’re Good’ is a more mellow pop rock track and one of the closest sounds to her earlier records. ‘Fault Line’ is probably my favourite track on the album. Michelle’s subtle tones on the verses before absolutely killing it with that euphoric chorus. By the time we reach ‘Heartbreak Now’, it’s obvious that we have a very chilled album here. If ‘The Spirt Room’ and ‘Hotel Paper’ were big Summer records then this album is the chilled album you listen to while driving at sunset.
I can understand why Michelle went with ‘Hopeless Romantic’ as the lead single and title of the album as it’s the stand out here. It’s melancholic, incredibly moody and almost ethereal. It feels like a sister song to ‘Are You Happy Now?’ in many ways. I love how Michelle’s voice just glides like silk over the production. ‘Temporary Feeling’ has a slight jazz vibe to it which helps break the album up a little bit while ‘Last Night’ has a bit of a electronic vibe to it. It’s the only track that sees Michelle collaborate with the legendary John Shanks who helped pen previous tracks such as ‘Breathe’ and ‘All You Wanted’. I hope that they will work together again in the future as they just make magic when they do. I actually found the second half of the album to contain the strongest tracks. ‘Bad Side’ has a great eighties energy to it while ‘City’ is without a doubt, the most personal track on the album.
I was fourteen years old when Michelle exploded onto the scene. This means that I have a lot of teenage memories attached to her previous albums. I was concerned coming into this record that I wouldn’t feel the same about Michelle now as I did then. I had nothing to be worried about. While this album is much more chilled than I perhaps would have liked, as an almost 30 year old, I can connect with it in a way that I probably couldn’t have if I was still a teenager. Even after all these years, Michelle is still a master storyteller with her emotive lyrics and emotional delivery. Now just do me a favour Michelle, please don’t leave us waiting another fourteen years for the follow up.