When an artist takes this long between releases it bodes one of two things: either the resulting work will be a masterpiece meticulously laboured over, or, it will be a hodge-podge of sounds and thoughts that are drawn from such different times and places that they really don't work together at all. The Idler Wheel is definitely the latter.
A deeper exploration of jazz influences leads to some fresh moments. A drum solo gives way to an upright bass line on "Left Alone". "Periphery" swings like a pendulum. Multi-part scat vocals make "Hot Knife" a standout, compelling listening experience.
Unfortunately, when Apple gets introspective things get dull. The poison tongue just isn't as venomous anymore, leaving songs like "Valentine" and "Regret" sounding anemic. "Werewolf" is a kiss-off track that lacks a knockout punch.
Piano, clattering percussion, and Apple's vocals fail to synch up in the incredibly disjointed, and nearly unlistenable, "Jonathan". In contrast, "Anything We Want" takes the same elements, and because they all fall together perfectly, it creates a rhythm that urges you to sway.
In all there simply aren't enough strong moments to make The Idler Wheel... worth the lengthy wait.
Fiona Apple plays the Sound Academy in Toronto on July 4th.
Best tracks: "Left Alone", "Hot Knife"
Track listing for The Idler Wheel...:
- Every Single Night
- Left Alone
- Anything We Want
- Hot Knife