Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel... | Album Review | By Volume

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Fiona-Apple-The-Idler-Wheel

Fiona Apple

The Idler Wheel...

RIYL: bad apple cliches, disgustingly consistent artists, surprisingly uplifting pop, fruit puns.

Comments (0)
Author: on June 28, 2012
8.4
Clean Slate / Epic
June 19, 2012

As a spry pre-teen when I was first really introduced to Fiona Apple – via a supposedly racy music video where she sings about stealing something or the other – I would have never expected the prize beneath the packaging. The years went on and the albums, though sparingly dispersed, were each their own microcosm of quirky jazz-inspired pop heaven. Strange as it was, at the time it seemed more than easy to lump her in with any number of Lilith Fair figureheads. By that, no slight is meant towards the immense amount of talent that populated those lineups; it’s just that if you take a gander at the festival’s initial main stage collective, a handful of artists stand out as distinctly separate from the rest musically. Even as Fiona Apple was smashing Billboard charts and experiencing heavy rotation on MTV she was never a traditional child of the limelight. Yet even now, with her fourth record, there is still a definite level of gravitas to the thirty-four year old that peerlessly allows us to slide right into orbit comfortably. She is still angry – a little bitter, probably, as well – but sixteen years after her introduction, Fiona Apple still sounds a few years ahead of her peers.

“Have them celebrate your name / Have them forge you a pedigree and then you’ll be / Left to run the races lame,” she bouncily expresses on the piano-laden gem “Periphery” in the midst of a peace treaty to an ex-lover. The song, much like most of The Idler Wheel… is composed quite minimally; a simple backing melody accented with slight production tweaks (sound effects, light echoes, live samples) and drum loops. The centerpiece is Fiona and her sorrowful croon, still as lyrically sharp and venomously tipped as ever. “We started out sippin’ the water / And now we try to swallow the wave / And we try not to let those bastards get us down,” she ponders inspiringly on “Anything We Want.” Ever the realist, Apple is still unquestionably unapologetic in her direct lyrical attitude. Yet this is exactly what has always created such a compelling air about her: “The rib is the shell and the heart is the yolk / And i just made a meal for us both to choke on,” are lyrical diatribes that just would not conjure up nearly as much raw passion if delivered by another vocalist.

This alarming presence held by a figure void of almost any physical intimidation is projected in a vividly grandiose fashion on record. The Idler Wheel… is a monster in the most elegant sense – a Frankenstein of a record: aesthetically awkward, sonically challenging, constantly brooding but anchored by a sense of honest wonder and palpable determination. Despite touches of poison here and there The Idler Wheel… is a curiously upbeat record, not quite as musically dense as her previous work. Yet this bare-bones approach to her recording (similar to the “official” release of 2005’s Extraordinary Machine) is fitting for her snap shot fairy tales of shitty love, dying emotion, adolescent excitement and violent feelings. Ever the virtuosic spitfire, Fiona Apple displays no evidence she is about to stultify anybody who counts among her fans, and she could very easily entangle a number more of these into her velvet web. But should you become entwined, pay mind to where you lay for this mesh is laced in barbs as well.

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