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Fiona Apple – Idler Wheel album review

Well, after a break of about seven years, Fiona Apple is back with her fourth full studio album, and seeks to take the record of longest title with The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. True to her musical sensibilities, The Idler Wheel is an exploration of sound and emotion and just about as far from convention as you can be.

It should be noted that this album should not be picked up expecting to find another Tidal, the album that launched her sixteen years ago with songs such as Criminal. The same anger that was there can still be heard in Idler Wheel, but it has changed. It is more reflective now. Apple explores her emotion much like a tongue explores a tooth that has just been pulled. Each song feels as if it is close to exploding into something much bigger but Apple firmly keeps control and reigns it in. “I just want to feel everything”. That’s a line that is repeated in the first song, Every Single Night and seems to be an apt summary for her emotional approach to this album.

The instrumentation of Idler Wheel reminds me of a carnival. Old upright pianos that have seen better days, loud reverberating percussion, even the tones of old music boxes all combine into the make up of the album. The song Jonathon truly captures the spirit of these instrument choices. Had it not had the strong controlled vocals of Apple over top of it, I could almost believe this was a song that should be on Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs.

The album moves through Apple’s emotions with songs such as Valentine, Anything We Want, and Left Alone. If there is one time that we see Apple’s restraint falter it is on the song Regret. Here, the tight vocal control falters and becomes guttural and harsh. Emotionally speaking, it packs a hell of a punch.

If Idler Wheel has a failing, it is that there is a certain smugness that overlies it all. Apple revels in her quirkiness and if there was a camera I could imagine her winking at it. Still, it is impossible to deny that what she does, she does well and seven years was worth the wait for this.

By Chris Angel

When not sharing his opinions on the World Wide Web, Chris spends his time writing and recording music.

Chris currently has three albums out, all available on iTunes, and is eager to start writing more for his next album. He also enjoys grilled cheese sandwiches and being handed briefcases full of money.

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