Album Review: Stand Still, Look Pretty (2006)

Stand Still, Look Pretty, by the Wreckers

At this point in looking at the discography of Michelle Branch [1] it is time to look at her country period.  The first sign of the Wreckers was their appearance (along with Michelle Branch listed separately) on one of Santana’s minor hits “I’m Feeling You,” after which we find Michelle Branch working along with a friend of hers, Jessica Harp, on creating a compelling country duo.  The result was moderately successful, with a couple of hit singles, but the duo broke up after this one album.  Even though the album [2] went gold (which is pretty successful at least), those who were fans of Michelle Branch’s turn to country music were left waiting for more for quite a while.  It would take a long time to figure out that it was not so much that Michelle Branch had writer’s block (quite the contrary) but that her label simply did not want to release what she had recorded.  But anyway, here is the track by track review:

Leave The Pieces:  The first and biggest hit of the album, this is a twangy ode to recovering from a broken and dysfunctional relationship.  By this point, Michelle Branch was an old hat to songs about heartache.  This song indicated that without changing much of her own approach, Branch was a natural fit for Nashville.  This is a great track, and a sure inclusion on any best of collection in Branch’s future.

Way Back Home:  This lovely song looks at the loneliness of life in the music industry and a desire for home and also a desire to have people know you without having to know your name.  The lovely harmonies and sweet instrumental work make this a lovely and touching album track.

The Good Kind:  This is a clever and somewhat gloomy song about weeping and misery, related once again to a dysfunctional relationship.  This song has more of a pop-country feel to it, which explains why it didn’t hit the country charts when released as a promo single, but its melancholy mood and slick musical touches makes it a lovely enough track for those of us who love melancholy music.

Tennessee:  The title of this song reflects a desire to be accepted by the Nashville crowd, and it deals with a sense of longing relating to a past relationship, material that is frequently and beautifully mined by Branch.  Here again Branch muses on the problems of the traveling and isolation related to the music business and concerns that she is selfish.  This song, the third single from the album, was a top 40 country hit.

My, Oh My:  This upbeat story song served as the second hit single from this album.  The song itself has a feel of nostalgia to it with older and wiser singers reflecting on the passage of time and changes in the world and the longing for a simpler time in the past that they did not appreciate.  The song struck a chord and hit the top 10 on the country charts and the lower reaches of the Hot 100.

Stand Still, Look Pretty:  This song is a deeply melancholy reflection on the damage done by being a star, wanting not to appear that one is complaining all the time, where others thinking that it is easy to stand still and look pretty, and where she urges others to walk in her shoes.  It is a strikingly downbeat song written at the period just before Michelle Branch dropped off the map altogether.

Cigarettes:  This story song is a bit more mid-tempo, reflecting on a empty life listening to old country songs about cheating and smoking cigarettes that one knows are not healthy.  As the song continues, the narrator reflects on broken relationships and the longing for quiet nights and good relationships.

Hard To Love You:  This song, yet another song about dysfunctional relationships, shows the singer wrestling with what makes someone hard to love in her own life, trying to make changes in her life while waiting for someone worthwhile.  This is the sort of song that would have belonged pretty easily on Hotel Paper, and certainly fits the mood of this album.

Lay Me Down:  This song is another song about loneliness and the longing for love, intimacy, touch.  Here we see trouble when someone longs for love with someone who does not understand her and has never even tried to.  This is another song where the melancholy sense of isolation overwhelms the positive framing of laying down with someone.

One More Girl:  This sad love song reflects on the sad emptiness of a former partner who keeps on going through a string of broken relationships looking for true love without knowing what it is like.  The chorus is pretty heartbreaking, with pretty ferocious lyrics that are hidden by the moody and downbeat music.

Rain:  This driving song is one of the standouts of the generally downbeat second half of this album.  A sense of frustration about rain and a doubt that the sun will ever come out again fill this song, as one can feel the anger in the narrator as she pours out her disappointment at the problems of a dysfunctional relationship.

Crazy People:  The album closer shows a great sense of humor about the narrator’s tendency to attract crazy people, implying that she herself is crazy.  This is the sort of tongue-and-cheek ode that should have been a big hit.  The lyrics are so over the top that one cannot help but laugh when listening to the song, just like the singers themselves laughed at the end, unable to keep it serious.  Well played, ladies.

Overall, this album is on the melancholy and sad side, and it feels a lot like a twangier natural follow up to Hotel Paper with more vocal harmonies.  This is not a bad thing, though.  If you like your Nashville music coated with whiskey and cigarettes and like to hear songs of heartbreak and frustration, this album has a lot to offer.  One can clearly get a sense of Michelle Branch’s lack of comfort with the pop world and her desire to be accepted for who she is, and it holds up well.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Love & Marriage, Music History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Album Review: Stand Still, Look Pretty (2006)

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