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Stand Still, Look Pretty

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Album Review

Sometime between the release of her second album Hotel Paper in 2003 and the birth of her first child in 2005, Michelle Branch decided that she was tired of following the adult alternative career path that she'd been pursuing since her 2001 debut Spirit Room. She made no bones about her frustration, memorably posting on her website in late 2005 that she was "tired of sucking ***** to get my music heard" in the course of an inspired rant in which she vented her frustration at the music biz and everything that surrounded it. It was a ballsy move, but it did accomplish its desired effect of loosening the log-jam that stalled her career, particularly her plans to release a duet album with her friend and collaborator Jessica Harp under the name the Wreckers. Branch received resistance from her label, not just because she wanted to trade in her solo career for life in a group, but because the Wreckers were a country duo, and the shift in sound was as risky as the decision to be part of a band. At least it must have seemed that way on paper, but in practice, the duo's debut Stand Still, Look Pretty doesn't seem like a radical departure from Branch's solo albums. Sure, there are fiddles, acoustic guitars, and twangy Telecasters instead of layers of synths, but the album is pitched halfway between Sheryl Crow and the Dixie Chicks, spiked with enough mainstream country-pop sheen to have it fit comfortably next to Miranda Lambert on the airwaves, but not enough to change the overall feeling that this record is a rootsy AAA record at its heart — not far from Crow and the Dixie Chicks. It's a subtle change from Branch's previous work, but it does pay off significant dividends in a number of ways. First off all, Branch sounds at ease as part of a duo, and this truly is an equal partnership; in fact, Harp bears more songwriting credits than Branch does here, including two cuts that are hers alone ("Tennessee" and "Cigarettes"). Second, the clean-but-natural production is better suited to Branch's strengths than the stilted glossy sound of Hotel Paper, letting her songs stand on their own merits. And if she sounded a little tentative and fuzzy on her sophomore solo effort, she sounds focused here, thanks in large part to working with Harp, who helps draw out the earnest likeability that made Spirit Room appealing. It also helps that the Wreckers, in true country fashion, also cut a few professionally written tunes, such as the glittering opening cut "Leave the Pieces," that help keep this cohesive and entertaining. Not that there isn't a stumble or two along the way — the anti-fame ruminations of the title track is too navel-gazing for country both in its topic and its moody dirge — but the great majority of Stand Still, Look Pretty is tuneful, tastefully rootsy, and quite engaging country-pop. Based on this enjoyable album, if Branch decides to ditch her solo career to devote herself full-time to the Wreckers, it'd be a smart decision.

Customer Reviews

Finally!!!

This is such a good album, i never liked country music before it, at first it was only because i'm a huge Michelle Branch fan that i got the cd but i loved it at first listen. There is not a bad song on it but the best will have to be lay me down. Buy it, you won't regret it!

One of a kind

I think their music is amazing and this album is consistant all the way through. Living in the UK you arent really exposed to country music which is a shame when there's musicians like these. Amazing album and great band.

The Wreckers; Stand Still Look Pretty CD Album Review

The Wreckers is a band like no other. It is a collabaration between country singer Jessica Harp and alternative pop sensation Michelle Branch. I've been a fan of Michelle Branch ever since I heard 'Goodbye to you' on 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and 'Charmed'. I noticed this band when I went on Michelle's web-site and it redirected me to the website of said band. I was instantly awe-struck by the background music of 'Leave the Pieces' and found myself visiting the web-site just to listen to the song. Therefore, knowing I couldn't just keep coming on-line to listen to a song, I decided to purchase their album from amazon.co.uk. I have never been more happy with a purchase. The album is flawless! It's interplay of Jessica's country and Michelle's pop makes an extremely well-rounded, inspiring, emotion-wrenching, heartfelt piece of art. It has a song for whatever mood you are in at the time; even if you don't particularly like country music, this will not disappoint you. The album's first track is 'Leave the pieces', which I previously stated stays in your head dangling on your heart-string when you so sorely need a boost of inspiration in your everyday routine. This song also did very well in the American charts and along with 'The Good kind' made the wreckers ever more famous in their home country. Said song is also extremely emotional, but oddly in an up-beat way. It's very hard to explain, but the Wreckers give you a sense of accomplishment like no other before them. They are both exceptional musicians. In between Jessica's more solo track 'Tennesse' and Michelle's solo track 'Rain', you feel an array of memories, imaginative sub-text, incredulous sorrow and up-beat irony (not necessarily in that order). It really makes you feel alive in a vast majority. Even at the end track 'Crazy People', which is a song for anyone scorned by love in any way, you are wanting the CD to keep playing and playing. You will never get enough and keep wishing for more, which I know is always a good feeling. Therefore, if you want your senses pricked, shaken, or stirred, this is the album that will open you up to a new generation of music and maybe even change your attitude of the world to a certain degree. I hope you enjoy this masterpiece as I have.

Biography

Formed: 2004

Genre: Country

Years Active: '00s

In 2004, Michelle Branch took a break from her successful solo career to team with friend and touring backup singer Jessica Harp in a new project called the Wreckers. Previous to the Branch collaboration, Harp had been working as a singer/songwriter in Nashville, and those country music elements mixed with Branch's pop sensibilities to inform the Wreckers' rootsy, harmony-rich sound. The duo debuted in autumn 2004, performing "Good Kind" on the WB teen drama One Tree Hill. "Good Kind" then appeared...
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