The Spirit Room
Seventeen year-old Michelle Branch impresses in a variety of ways on her 2001 debut The Spirit Room. Her vocals are assertive yet vulnerable, avoiding a strident tone without coming across as prissy. There are hints of Belinda Carlisle’s breezy style in her singing, as well as the urgency of Alanis Morissette. Branch’s songwriting is heartfelt and solid, rooted in classic pop with a few country elements added. Producer John Shanks surrounds her with bright contemporary sounds, adding a hip-hop groove here and an atmospheric synthesizer backdrop there. Romantic complications are Branch’s primary lyric focus, with “Everywhere,” “All You Wanted” and “Sweet Misery” oscillating between anticipation and disillusionment. She delivers an appealing anthem for teen misfits with “You Get Me” and gets likeably snarky on “If Only She Knew.” The luminous “Drop In the Ocean” balances such moments with its compelling spiritual undercurrent. The Spirit Room finds her opening creative doors and striding through with confidence.