Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel

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I’m not a great fan of Fiona Apple’s, but I liked her previous release, Extraordinary Machine (2005).  Enough so that with a few very positive reviews and a summer drought of musical interest, I went ahead and made the purchase. 

It turns out that judging a book by its cover is a reasonable means of caveat emptor. 

That looks like a very distressed person at the point of a nervous breakdown.  If I were to look at the cover without a review, I might ask myself, “Why would I want to listen to that?”

I like her voice.  Her songs are never catchy with clean hooks, but they’re interesting.  She’s certainly not bound by popular music conventions, which can be refreshing.  And her piano is a nice variant from my guitar heavy listening pleasures. 

I will say that her lyrics are fascinating.  She doesn’t filter, revealing much about herself while picking sores that won’t heal anytime soon.  It’s good reading as poetry.

say I”m an airplane
and the gashes I got from my heart-break
make the slots and the flaps upon my wing
and I use ‘em to give me lift.


and now I’m hard, too hard to know
I don’t cry when I’m sad anymore, no, no.
Tears calcify in my tummy
Fears coincide with the tow
How can I ask anyone to love me
when all I do is beg to be left alone

Cheery stuff.

But, throw into that a percussive focus, the piano, and little else, it’s surprising that it goes down smoother only if you can appreciate the words while listening.  Otherwise, it’s a dreadful listen.  Even when there are opportunities to sound “pleasing,” she careens off into making a phrase as unpleasant as possible.  For those wanting art, it fits.  For those wanting happy ears, it does not.  If she ever finds a happy place, she may well strike up something similar to Vince Guiardi’s “Linus and Lucy.” Someday.  It promises so much more... but, that’s not where she lives today.

Let’s sort some reviews in a helpful order:

“... essential 2012 listening for anyone interested in popular music as art.”  LA Times

“... the Idler Wheel is fearlessly austere.” Pitchfork

“... it’s highly confessional and creative and temperamental, and will probably make you fall crazy in love.” Entertainment Weekly  (comment:  WHAT???)

“... gnashing in her pathos, having long since dropped the outward-calm mask most of the rest of us wear, lets her neuroses fester before taking them out into the light.” Spin

“Stripped of all her carnivalesque accouterments, Fiona Apple remains as rich and compelling ash she ever was, perhaps even more so.” Allmusic

“... It ain’t easy listening. But it’s worth it. A” Entertainment Weekly

“The Idler Wheel... is a challenging album.” Rolling Stone

“... though it may be her best album yet,”... “it’s the one you’ll least want to hear again.” – The Washington Post

“There’s not a single song I want to hear again.”  Me

1 comment :

  1. Well then, I may not waste my free Amazon downloads on her then. I did love the Entertainment Weekly comment. ;-)