Written by Noelle Simeon
Photo by Sonya Jasinski
The last time I actively listened to Michelle Branch was in the early aughts. One of the forerunners of the pop-but-with-soul sound of the time, Branch could play the guitar and gaze longingly from the television screen with hits “Everywhere” and “All You Wanted”. The Trouble with Fever breaks the mold I had wrongfully assumed she fit. The album has an organic, garage-band quality, recorded from her & husband Patrick Carney’s home studio during the start of the 2020 Covid lockdowns. “I didn’t realize I was making a record at first—it was more just for our own sanity,” she says of the time. “It felt like new territory…We were in such a safe, little, creative bubble.”
Writing and playing multiple instruments on each of the ten tracks, Branch can go deep into her feelings. Having complete creative control, Fever is a labor of love, and she allows herself to capture the mood of each song.
“Closest Thing to Heaven”, “You Got Me Where You Want Me”, and “You” all express different sides of desire, being the object of it or wanting to be.
One could argue the focal point is “I’m a Man,” Fever’s first released single. At the (unfortunately) right moment in our history, Branch’s gentle voice demands equality, singing, “I’m so tired of being told by everybody/ That I can’t make decisions/ My own damn body.” Fever’s cover art, an almost grainy, black-and-white photo, seems to fit the album’s mood, but Branch chose it due to the story behind the picture. Taken by her father-in-law in 1970, it was a last-minute trip to Cape Cod, where he joined two friends going to New York City. In the photo, there is a woman scheduled to have an abortion, which had just become legalized in the state. The heavy mood of the weekend seems to be burned inside the photo and carries itself throughout Fever.
There are fun songs, too. “Zut Alors!” has a singalong, rebellious feel, while “Fever Forever” is youthful and sexy.
The heartbreakers are “Not My Lover” and “I’m Sorry.” My favorite song is the country-ish “When That Somebody is You,” singing of painful self-reflection with the lyrics “and your life is a total disaster/ but you’re too scared to be asking for proof.”
Still a hopeful romantic, “Beating on the Outside” is a song for all lovers out there, with Branch declaring how open her heart is.
Michelle Branch is a true musician’s musician, and The Trouble with Fever enraptures all of her talents beautifully.
Pre-order now-album release date is September 16th.