Chick pop that doesn't suck (sorry, Britney)

Spirit Room (Maverick)

Michelle Branch

By Kory Wilcoxson

My dag-blasted car CD player broke again, so I was forced to throw myself to the whims of FM radio. Most of my time was spent changing stations, but I did happen upon a few songs that caught my fancy. One of them was catchy enough that I bought the album.

That song was "Everywhere," and it is the incredibly likeable kickoff to Spirit Room, the debut album of 18-year-old Michelle Branch. Branch is a fresh voice on the pop music scene and possesses a quality that makes her an instant attraction - she's refreshingly different. Her musical energy is neither angst-driven nor hormone-induced (sorry, Britney); instead it is raw like Alanis Morrissette, yet more innocent.

Her songwriting is nothing special, but she does know how to put elements together, and all of the tracks have a gritty catchiness, a la Melissa Etheridge (not that there's anything wrong with that). I'm glad that I found this oasis in the sea of slop floating around the airwaves.