Thats a mouth full…
Anyways, Fiona Apples long awaited album since her 2005 Extraordinary Machine is something that has been pretty much hyped since it was whispered to be released this winter. Rightfully so. Apple, an artist who fits in the category of “white girls behind a piano with a quirky voice” should probably be credited with being the first one. And though her voice could be compared with the sounds of Regina, Norah, Bareilles, or less truly talented, red-haired recent up and comers (yes that was a Florence dig) she is NOTHING like all of those artists. Since she has started, she has only put out 4 albums in a time span where she should have put out 8 or 9 and has made sure that she retains the status of weirdest singer songwriter since the inception of the term. As Stereogum put it, she has “freak appeal”, and has known that she does all along. She also displays this concept in her music.
This is especially the case for Idler Wheels… with it’s jarring accompaniment and lyrics. The entire album is rooted with essence of jazz, whether it be bebop or modern or even back to the good ol’ 1920’s, Apple creates her distortion with a base of familiar style. Apples voice itself is jarring. I remember when Lana Del Rey was first starting to come into everyone’s psyche, her voice was compared to that of Apples. Which is an absolute horrendous comparison. Even though they both fall in a low register, Apple knows what she’s doing and can control emotional moments with her voice, whereas Lana Del Rey needs to open her mouth when she sings.
Anyways, besides that rant. It’s been said that with all these large gaps in time between albums we should be able to hear the difference, hear the change and maturity. And to some extent we do, music around us changes all the time, so of course she will change with the flow of time. Yet other than that, there’s not much change, but a whole lot of development. Apple shows us in Idler Wheels… that we can “grow up”, grow older and change, but identity crisis’ can still happen. We can be just as lost as adults as we can be teenagers or little kids. Apple shows us she has no clue who she is by saying in ten songs, ten different versions of herself. Between knowing that she can’t be loved, to knowing a lover wronged her because she set him up to. Apple has always known to be a swirling pool of emotion, and this album is no different. Her melodies, piano accompaniment, and lyrical content give us the rawness of emotion we all experience in our day to day lives with growling vocals or earworm melodies. Meanwhile little bits and pieces of lyric stands out as brilliant messages to those losing hope, such as “Nothing wrong when, a song ends, in a minor key.”
You could losely say that this album is basically all piano and drums, because frankly, it is. Yet it’s used so differently in every song, and used in a unique way. Apple, as I previously mentioned, shows a different aspect of jazz in every song. Meanwhile every song has some sort of sound clip that either loops or comes in and out. This makes every track so incredibly unique. Apple has a very very keen sense of creating a piece of music with non conventional sounds and materials to make the listeners head swim, even if the piano part isn’t that intricate and the melody is pretty straight forward.
This album is pretty much already being heralded as the best album of the decade thus far. Honestly I believe thats a little premature and only time will tell. I will say that there is not a single disappointing, or uneventful, not enjoyable track. Everything from the oh so pop, could-be-the-next-Apple-commercial “Anything We Want”, the pulsing 6/8 timed “Daredevil”, to the completely left field yet brilliant “Hot Knife” is so unique and entertaining, that I could see why it’s being heralded as brilliant. The “freak appeal” is something that I’m definitely into with this album. If it passes the simple test of “Every song is absolutely great and I never want to skip over any of them” test, then hey, it’s pretty good I guess.
The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, is out 6/20 off Epic Records.