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Songwriting, vocals make nice combo

Arm's Length
Arm's Length
By Michele Shipp

Self-released: 2006

Buy it now

This review first appeared in the February 16, 2006 issue of the North County Times.

Alt-pop with more melody than attitude, San Diegan Michele Shipp's debut CD, "Arm's Length," shows a nice touch at songwriting and a better touch on performing those songs.

Shipp's sound is built around her husky vocals, and clean, open arrangements with keyboards, guitars and percussion. Not bare bones by any means, but not over-arranged, either: The focus is always on her singing.

On songs like "Just One," with its bubbling rhythm and mesmerizing pop hooks, the combination is pure magic – a song that in an earlier day would have been a Top 40 hit. "Descending" is its equal, although with a tougher edge. And on "Off Shore" and "Arm's Length" the addition of cello adds a gorgeous richness beneath her voice.

"Arm's Length" is not a perfect release; there are some flat spots with songs that don't have enough of a melodic hook to hold your attention. But even those are made listenable by the gorgeous arrangements and Shipp's interesting singing.