After a seven year hiatus, Fiona Apple is back to offer a rather spectacular and mind-bending lyrical experience with her fourth studio album, The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.
The extravagant title itself prepares listeners for what lies in store with the 10-track exploration of life and romance – a musical experiment compiled of expressive piano and drum compositions paired with soulful and sometimes eerily-raw vocals. Simply referred to as The Idler Wheel, Apple mixes heartbreak with humor, unrestrained emotion with vigorous and thrilling truths, to contrive an untraditional album of art and soul that bubbles over with poppy beats and catchy lyrical wit.
Fiona Apple first won acclaim with her 1998 album Tidal, which included the hit single “Criminal.” Lyrically upfront and heavily piano-driven, Apple has since become more vocally complex and instrumentally experimental in her most recent album, with the help of her new producer and touring drummer Charley Drayton.
On the album’s opening track “Every Single Night,” Apple offers a glimpse into the inner turmoil of her psyche, struggling with the ongoing confliction that “Every single nights alright/Every single nights a fight/With my brain/I just wanna feel everything.” This message holds a strong undertone throughout the entire album – Apple invites her fans to experience the inner workings of her mind and motivations no matter how scattered, dramatic, or conflicted they may appear. Listeners must prepare themselves to enter into a musical domain where questions go unanswered and stories go unfinished, but where a pure sense of lyrical reconciliation and peace still subsists at the conclusion of each track. Apple’s smooth, often jazzy vocals clash with the harsh, loud, and sometimes unnerving instrumentals, but combine together as a skillfully-crafted artistic experience. (Also be sure to check out the bizarrely brilliant video for “Every Single Night,” where Apple dons an octopus hat and serenades a grass bed full of snails).
In the song “Daredevil,” Apple seems to scream the lines “Seek me out/Look at, look at, look at me/Wake me up/Give me, give me, give me what you got.” Such brutal emotion and blunt honesty solidifies Apple as a lyrical energy not to be reckoned with. She forces her audience to not only listen to the beauty of each lyric, but to take heed of the emotional angst, confusion, and truth that lies within each word. Even so, Apple still remains vocally controlled and strong throughout, exemplifying her maturity and power as a musical artist as well as a poet. Some other tracks to take notice of are “Werewolf,” “Periphery,” and “Valentine.” The piano/drum combination blended
Apple has always been recognized for her powerful and soulful vocals, and with this album her talent has only grown more so. It seems she has more control over her voice, which gives her the chance to explore new instrumental territories and deeper lyrical meaning. Apple is finally ready to take on her life obstacles and demons, and with The Idler Wheel she allows her fans to tag along for the tumultuous ride.