Hopeless Romantic

Michelle Branch

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Hopeless Romantic Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Through no fault of her own, Michelle Branch was missing in action during the 2010s. Branch released her last solo album, Hotel Paper, way back in 2003, spending the last half of that decade working with Jessica Harp as the Wreckers, but as the 2010s dawned, she found herself embroiled with struggles with her record label, which rejected all of her new material. Branch didn't emerge from this battle until 2015, when she signed with Verve Records. During all this creative upheaval, Branch experienced personal turmoil in the form of a divorce from her husband of 11 years, so it's not necessarily a surprise that 2017's Hopeless Romantic represents a new beginning on several different fronts for the singer/songwriter. Much of the album concerns heartbreak and rebirth, but more striking than its content is its form. Working with producers Gus Seyffert and Patrick Carney, Branch reinvents herself as an electropop-friendly adult alternative troubadour. How she writes songs hasn't changed much -- she retains a knack for candied pop hooks and is a cannily sentimental balladeer -- but Hopeless Romantic glistens with glassy analog synths and similar retro-pop moves. When the tempos quicken, Hopeless Romantic can recall the exuberance of Carly Rae Jepsen, but often the album simmers, so it suggests '80s-friendly indie outfits like Chvrches or Beach House, but Branch is too much of a mainstream craftswoman to let things get chilly or weird. As such, Hopeless Romantic has an appealingly cool veneer in addition to a sturdy structure of songs. It comes on so smoothly, it's easy to overlook how the songs quickly sink into the subconscious.

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