Heartbreak is a curious thing. It’s an unmatched pain, ruthless even. But it’s also perhaps the best catalyst for creativity, especially when it comes to music.But what happens when you come to terms with heartbreak? What happens when you move on? These questions are weaved throughout Michelle Branch’s third studio album, Hopeless Romantic. On her first solo full-length in nearly 14 years, the singer-songwriter – known in the early aughts for pop rock anthems like “Everywhere” and “Are You Happy Now” – gives an intimate look at her road to self-discovery after her 2015 split from husband Teddy Landau. The result is her most vulnerable and honest work to date.
Much of Hopeless Romantic carefully treads the line between Branch’s signature pop rock sensibilities and her new Nashville-influenced sound. Co-produced by Gus Seyffert (Beck, Sia) and Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney (who she also happens to be dating), the LP has a huskier, bluesier edge than predecessors like 2001’s The Spirit Room and 2003’s Hotel Paper. The title track, for instance, feels like a cross between Beach House and Lana Del Rey, as Branch sings about dangerous love over haunting synths. But this change never feels indulgent or forced; rather, it proves she’s seamlessly put a modern twist on what made us all fall for her in the first place.