Fiona Apple “The Idler Wheel” review‏

Posted by under *like, Music |

I don’t know if I’d call this a “review,” necessarily, more just my thoughts on an album, directly after I heard it, two times. That actually says something telling to me though. I love Spotify, and find it incredibly simple to click around and listen to a smattering of Everything. It’s all so easy it seems I have no attention span for music anymore, but when I listened to this album, I took it all in, listened to its ten tracks without stopping, and when I was done, I turned off Spotify and took my headphones off. A few hours later, I put my headphones back on and listened to Fiona Apple’s latest album The Idler Wheel… again, in full, to the end.

After hearing The Idler Wheel… I can easily say that this is the best new album I’ve heard in years. It’s as if she took only the things I loved most about the bootleg-version of Extraordinary Machine, isolated only those moments, expanded on them and turned it all into a full length album. This is the kind of album I think every singer songwriter is aiming for and always falling short of hitting. It’s raw, stripped down, passionate and bare. It features only a bit of accompaniment from her percussionist, and it’s perfectly arranged. The songs are playful and quirky, but also dark, and unflinchingly honest.

Apple’s voice is the absolute focus of this album and she’s never sung better, or more expressively. She’s singing like a classic jazz singer, howling cathartic lines of real blues, or just playfully singing through her lighter moments, and doing it all with the utmost conviction. My favorite parts are when her voice starts to break up, on the verge of screaming. There are no forced, canned hooks or choruses-for-a-chorus’ sake. There are songs with downright weird timings and strange piano melodies under a bare vocal. It’s incredible how everything works so well. This is the power that I heard when listening to Extraordinary Machine (the bootleg) years ago, but here it’s even better, even more focused and she’s tapped deeper into that power.

When I heard this album, I was overwhelmed by how good it was, at how it was exactly what I was hoping for. I then thought, “Wait. I haven’t heard anyone talking about this” and got a little scared. She seems to be the kind of artist that takes things to heart, and I have to imagine she reads her reviews. I was relieved to see after some searching that it’s gotten good reviews from pretty much everywhere. She only releases albums every 7 or so years, because she seems to wait until she really has something to say and the passion invested in the songs to really create something meaningful. The last thing I’d want is for her to feel like this was a misstep, because this album is brilliant. In 7 years or so, I’d love to hear how she builds on this to create something new.

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likes books, music, spicy food, beer, coffee, and movies about the apocalyptic future - zombie-based and otherwise. He is the singer/multi-instrumentalist in The Silence Kit, a band on Break Even Records.

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