It has been 7 long years since Fiona Apple came out with an album. Seven years is far too long and a lot of wasted years for such a beloved artist as Fiona with such a dedicated fan-base. Since her debut back in 1996 with Tidal, Apple has turned out a total of only three albums within a sixteen year period.
That’s the thing with Fiona though. She makes you wait. But the wait has always been worth it. Coming from this extremely biased reviewer, all three albums were musical masterpieces.
And so is the fourth.
The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do is Fiona’s fourth official studio album. Collaborating with producer/ percussionist Charley Drayton, The Idler Wheel… is the purest Fiona record to date and the one album you can say that is a wholesale fulfillment of Fiona’s vision. While I won’t deny the merits and beauty that Jon Brion (and a lesser extent, Mike Elizondo) have added to Fiona’s earlier records, none have really come close to capturing Fiona’s full raw emotional gamut that this record has.
Already known for her amazing jazzy smooth alto, it seems that taking away the orchestral flourishes of Brion and the hip-hop machinery of Elizondo have allowed Fiona to finally unleash her most heart-wrenching, unrestrained, yearning vocals. This is the sparest Fiona album to date, with most of the songs finding only the tinkling of the piano ivory. But (because of this,) it contains Fiona at her most vulnerable, at her most personal, and at her best.
Let’s get one thing straight, this is the least pop album of Fiona’s career. In fact, I can’t even imagine any of the songs from the record being promoted as a radio single. But that’s a good thing. These aren’t songs to be listened to for a moment and then be spit out. No – these songs must be listened to carefully and repeatedly – pored through endlessly in fact. If you did that, the rewards are great. These songs connect on a much deeper level, they grow with you and reward you immensely. Listening to these songs is like digging through the soul of Fiona Apple. So strap on your headphones and dig in (and yes, headphones is the preferred method of listening). This is one of the finest record of the year. As far as I am concerned, the best one so far.
Stream three of the highlights (from a whole album of them) below – Every Single Night, Werewolf, and Anything We Want.
Fiona Apple is coming to St Louis on 7/14 at the Peabody Opera House. Do NOT miss this show. Seriously. (tickets here)
Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel… comes out 6/19 via Epic (order here)