Kieran Anderson – Associate Editor
Rating: 4 1/2 stars
IT HAPPENED! IT HAPPENED! IT FINALLY HAPPENED! FIONA IS BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER!
I’m sure I speak for thousands of Fiona Apple fans when I say “GLORY BE! FINALLY!” It’s been over half a decade since we’ve seen any new material from Fiona and after listening to The Idler Wheel… I think it’s safe to say that it was worth the wait. The lovely piano songstress that made her remarkable impression on the music world with her seminal debut album Tidal before she was even twenty has proven that she gets better with age and that she hasn’t lost her touch. The lady can still belt out those vicious ballads and The Idler Wheel… is truly a musical adventure for any listener.
After the delays and controversy that surrounded her last record Extraordinary Machine, a lot of fans were left wondering what Apple’s next move was going to be. Rumors started swirling that a new album was in the works and false release dates and leaks seemed to be popping up every other month which was enough to drive any big Fiona fan insane. It wasn’t until January 24th, 2012 when record executive L.A. Reid announced plans to release new material via twitter that we had definite confirmation of a Fiona comeback. However, some fans (aka myself) still remained skeptical and it wasn’t until plans of a small U.S. tour in the spring of 2012 that the new album was in fact ready for an imminent release.
The Idler Wheel… begins with the album’s first single “Every Single Night.” This tinkling ballad introduces a new Fiona Apple. The smokey, sullen, and full-bodied voice that separated Apple from so many musicians for so many years has evolved into an oaky tremble laced with maturity and experience that just trickles out of the speakers. She proves that she hasn’t lost or let go of that hard edge of her vocal range though as she brazenly howls “every single night’s a fight with my brain” throughout the song.
Another immediate favorite off of this album is the track “Jonathan.” A slippery ballad that seems to be about Apple’s ex, writer/actor Jonthan Ames. I love this track simply because it just seems to be teetering on the edge. The loose percussion and the way Apple plays piano on the track seem to give the impression that the song could just explode or fall apart at any second, but Apple’s vocals seem to hold it all together. It’s the constant battle between contradiction and combativeness that has really defined Apple’s sound and The Idler Wheel… definitely harbors that intoxicating and lethal musical combination. The Idler Wheel… not only shows off Apple’s musical talent, but also her strong lyrical abilities.
Tracks like “Valentine,” “Werewolf,” and “Periphery” are bursts of poetic napalm that although aren’t nearly as bitter as her previous work, but her words still maintain that outward snarl and introspective brooding that are seasoned throughout a majority of her writing.
The Idler Wheel… is a piece of art. That’s literally the only way that I can describe it. It all fits together and blends so wonderfully that I really look at it as a work of art rather than an album because Apple does such a brilliant job of making her thoughts known that it conjures up so many colorful images in my mind. Fiona Apple has accomplished something many musicians/writers/artists strive to do in their work and that’s to make their emotions palpable for their audience and Apple has done that repeatedly throughout her career. The Idler Wheel... is just the beginning of a new chapter for Fiona Apple and I am really excited to see what she has in store for us next.