Maverick Records. Released August 14, 2001. Produced by John Shanks.

The Spirit Room is Michelle Branch's mainstream debut album. (She previously produced an acoustic album, Broken Bracelet, which never hit the mass market.) It contains a collection of rather high-quality songs in the pop genre, all written or co-written by the artist herself.

Although none of the songs break any new ground, musically or lyrically, they're pleasant and occasionally catchy. Michelle's best efforts occur when she breaks away from the "Britney-beat": that slow, metronome-like underbeat of so many mainstream pop songs. "You Get Me," "All You Wanted," "You Set Me Free," and "If Only She Knew" suffer the most from this modern phenomenon. They're not bad songs, but she's capable of better (as the other seven tracks show).

I play this album when I don't want to be pumped up by rock, but my attention span is too short for my classical collection. It's good for coding.

Track listing (singles in bold), with additional lyric credits:

  1. Everywhere - 3:35 - John Shanks
  2. You Get Me - 3:54 - John Shanks, Shelly Peiken, Abra Moore
  3. All You Wanted - 3:38
  4. You Set Me Free - 3:09 - John Shanks
  5. Something To Sleep To - 4:13 - Jenifer Hagio, John Shanks
  6. Here With Me - 3:25 - John Shanks
  7. Sweet Misery - 3:43
  8. If Only She Knew - 4:39
  9. I'd Rather Be In Love - 3:55
  10. Goodbye To You - 4:11
  11. Drop In The Ocean - 4:18 - Jenifer Hagio, Will Golden, Bernie Reilly
The CD is "enhanced," meaning that it contains a Macromedia Shockwave presentation for your computer. The presentation includes the music video for "Everywhere" (her first single), some pictures from the production photo shoot, and a link to a record company-run web site. The video is a 55 MB Quicktime file, containing mostly shots of the artist playing her guitar in various locations. Michelle's a fairly cute kid who has, thus far, wisely chosen to avoid showing more skin than she'd like her grandmother to see. It's a nice change.

A civilian reviewer on amazon.com notes that there are two versions of this album. You can tell the difference by the cover photo: the first version has a red background, the second has a blue background. I own the first version. The second version, released 10 months after the first, contains altered versions of "If Only She Knew," "I'd Rather Be In Love," and "Goodbye to You." (But this new "GBTY" is also different from the radio version.) I haven't yet confirmed any of this, other than the cover difference.

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