Fiona Apple's new album only at The Idler Wheel... as is the style at the time. Apple's first album since 2005's Extraordinary Machine came highly anticipated. That anticipation was bolstered by her NPR interview in which her eccentric genius finds oratory crescendo in simple answers about her creative process. She says, I'll paraphrase, that she doesn't have a plan; she just writes music when music happens. It's the ideal of a young person wishing for the muse to motivate them. Muses' existence aside, The Idler Wheel... delivers. It's a casual, dark and chaotic collection that pushing the boundaries of experimentation while still maintaining Apple's signature sexual growling vocals and jazz-informed piano.
Apple feels a bit symbiotic with Annie Clark's St. Vincent here. And they've followed a similar career trajectory, though Clark's to less popular renown. Both artists tapped into a new style, a new way of approaching a traditional medium. Apple changed jazz and the Lilith Fair-style lady-rock that was waxing and waning in the last half of the 1990s. Clark took a guitar-centric indie scene and flipped rock over, infusing it with dark tales, divine haunting nightmares of sound, and lyrical directness. Both Apple and Clark managed to keep their pop sensibilities too. The point of this aside though, is that Apple has cultivated a similar dark place to Clark. At times, The Idler Wheel... feels like a dangerous, demonic music box, chiming away pleasantly while planning your demise when you turn your back.
Apple has always been a mature and direct lyricist. And that hasn't changed either. There are no wispy metaphors or dances. Apple belts "I don't wanna talk about anything!" in "Johnathan," a song where Apple wants to dispense with discussion and just be with the titular man. The Idler Wheel... is dangerously exceptional. It is indirect. It is at times, on the first listen, disarming and abusive. But it grows on you like a fine, beautiful ivy or Virginia Creeper. If we have to wait this long for Fiona Apple to hear her muse again, it will be a hard wait, but with these results, it's one of undeniable value.
Listen here via Spotify:
Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
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