Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fiona Apple: "The Idler Wheel..." (album review)

It's been eight years since we last had an album from Fiona Apple.  That's probably how long it took her to come up with the title for The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Drive of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (out June 19th).

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
  • Daredevil
  • Valentine
  • Jonathan
  • Left Alone
  • Werewolf
  • Periphery
  • Regret
  • Anything We Want
  • Hot Knife


Anonymous said...

Pardon me, but you have no idea what the fuck you're talking about. Have a nice day.

Unknown said...

Someone's mom forgot the lesson about manners.

Anonymous said...

I said, "Have a nice day," didn't I?

Martin said...

That's why I found you in like the 9th page of google when I typed "Fiona Apple The Idler Wheel review", because your reviews are shit. Thank god no one reads your blog and never will. And whatever is your respond, it will be as stupid as your reviews are.

Unknown said...

Obviously you didn't find any of the other reviews satisfactory or you wouldn't have read nine pages deep.

You also need some work on your English. To make sense grammatically and to use correct spelling, your comment should read:
'Your reviews are shit, that's why I found you on (not 'like in') the ninth page of Google (capitalized) when I searched 'Fiona Apple The Idler Wheel review'.

Thank God (capitalized) no one reads your blog and never will. Whatever (you never start a sentence with the word 'And') your response (not respond), it will be as stupid as your reviews.'

I hope this helps your in your ESL lessons.

Martin said...

I found all the reviews I read satisfactory, I just want to read all the reviews.
I used the "like in" because I can't recall in which page I found your "review". So I made a mistake in capitalization and some words I didn't use it correctly, so what? I am 13, from Chile and I didn't even use translator. I think you got my idea.
Maybe my English isn't perfect. But at least I know something good when I see it. Like Fiona. Not like your "review".
I am deeply sorry I don't have a perfect English and I am sorry you can only debate correcting people and telling them to be polite. You don't even argue defending your review, you just try to seem smart to "win" arguements. Please correct me every word I used wrong so you can divert the attention of your poorly "review"

Unknown said...

In that case you did splendidly on your English.

I can't defend my opinion because you have not bothered to point out why you disagree with me or where you feel I am wrong. Saying it was "shit" without providing evidence or citing examples gets a failing grade, even on a 13 year-old's book report.

Martin said...

Now I'll bother to tell youu in what I disagree (everything)
First of all the lenght of the review is way too small and doesn't fully review all the album.
Second of all this record probably is the best Fiona has ever recorded it was definitely worth the wait (even though I just waited about 4 years not 7)
Third of all Fiona is in a different chapter of her life, she can not be that bitter anymore(thing that I love as much as when she is happy.
Fourth of all I think the point of the lyrics of Fiona is the introspective journey she gives us in her lyrics, thing that most artists lack of.
Finally her music does synch up in Jonathan making that song into a beautiful ballad.
That's why I disagree and if I were you I would grade it, at least a 9.
Now that I am a little less angry and irracional I would really like if you correct me when I am wrong.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your thoughts Martin.

I write the kinds of reviews I like to read myself. Personally, I hate when critics use overly flowery language and meaningless metaphors to describe an album. Simply tell me what the record sounds like, what parts you like, don't like, and why. Also, I don't get paid to write reviews and I have a personal life, so you'll never get 2,500 words.

I don't need Apple, or any musician, to be bitter. What I ask is that they be passionate, and she just doesn't seem passionate on this album. She has proven to be capable of providing breathtaking vocals, but she doesn't do that here.

When I listen to an album the lyrics are only half of the equation. The music is often just as important. On this album the music is almost an afterthought. Too many of the songs sound too similar. I find a bad or lazy arrangement actually detracts from my ability to connect with the lyrics. That's the case for me here.

I just have to disagree with Jonathan. It may appeal to you, which is fine. However, for me there is too much unrelated noise going on. There's no central focus and it doesn't build towards making the song stronger as a whole.

Anonymous said...

Hey Snob,
I read your reviews every week. You're my #1 music blog. Thanks for writing and improving my music taste.