Essential New Music: Ben Watt’s “Fever Dream”


Ben Watt has had an expansive and varied career—with spouse Tracey Thorn in Everything But The Girl, as a club-music DJ, as a memoirist. Now, he seems to be starting a new phase as a thoughtful, earnest singer/songwriter. Compared to the 31-year gap between his first and second solo albums, his third, Fever Dream, came lightning fast. As he did on 2014’s Hendra, Watt works with Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, and they mine a similar moody, dark sound, although with a more electric, roiling edge, at least in the album’s first half.

Watt uses Fever Dream to explore the frayed and stretched dynamics that occur in long-term relationships, and the arrangements turn more delicate and acoustic as the songs grow more hopeful. The album moves from the doubts and discomforts of “Gradually” to the final, tentative hope of “New Year Of Grace,” and Watt throughout sounds weary but wise.

—Steve Klinge