mICHELLE BRANCH Hotel Paper (Maverick) Rating: NN Rating: NN
For anyone who needs a scorecard to keep track of the new wave of barely legal pop divas, here's your tipsheet: Michelle Branch is tasteful, not slutty (an anti-Britney/Christina), sweet-faced and pleasant (unlike our badass rebel Avril) and plays guitar, not piano (the key-tinkler is Vanessa Carlton). Such details are necessary, since Branch's glossy guitar pop is fairly devoid of character. On her sophomore album the girl proves she's a decent belter, eschewing the drama-heavy affectations of her peers, and can write a tune. Problem is, most of the 13 tracks here (one's hidden) sound identical, with cookie-cutter lyrics about a difficult long-distance romance and how being on tour makes you miss home. It sucks being a rock star, huh?