Fiona Apple made us wait seven years for her fourth album but then anyone who’s heard about her MTV acceptance speech in 1997 knows that she’s a woman not to be messed with. On accepting the award for Best New Artist, Apple famously declared that “this world is bullshit, and you shouldn’t model your life on what we think is cool and what we’re wearing and what we’re saying”. It’s this kind of no-nonsense approach which makes her such an interesting artist to listen to, as well as her intense songwriting and extremely long album titles (Apple once held the Guinness World Record for longest album title until Soulwax nicked it off her).
She easily fits into that niche of fairly intense female artists; you can see where Regina Spektor got her piano from, but you can also see where Apple took leads from musicians like Joni Mitchell and PJ Harvey. It’s a testament to their similarities that this group of artists are making some of the best music out there at the moment due to their clever amalgamation of each others ideas to all make fairly original material. It’s only when you really start to deconstruct them that you can see their interlinking thought processes.
The Idler Wheel… feels a lot darker than her previous material, not that she ever was much of a barrel of laughs, with a sense of lyrical despair creeping into the fourth album, carefully hidden under arpeggiated piano parts. ‘Jonathan’ is a prime example of this, with an upbeat accompaniment disguising Apple’s lyrics as she asserts ‘I don’t want to talk about anything’. The album does have incredible variety with all of the songs feeling individualistic, whether it’s the almost psychedelic ‘Left Alone’ or the country western ‘Hot Knife’. ‘Werewolf’ has to be the highlight of the album with a Bridget Jones-esque sing a long chorus (albeit a rather intense one) complete with screams and the throaty roar of Apple’s voice.
The more you listen to the album, the more you discover. Even though many people have been automatically captivated by it, personally I found that it took a while to unravel and get into the heart of it. Fiona Apple doesn’t make simple music and its worth getting drawn into ‘The Idler Wheel…’, to discover each song for its own and to really be transfixed by Apple’s genius.
By Jessy Parker Humphreys
Dance Yrself Clean