Fiona Apple Staggers Fans with The Idler Wheel...
There are a few musicians who stand out for creative integrity. These rare paragons refuse to pander to the masses or recording companies. They keep an artistic name so pure even J.D. Salinger would be satisfied. Among the artists who embody these noble ideals, stands Fiona Apple proud and tall (in spite of her 5’2” stature).
The gifted contralto also happens to share Salinger’s propensity for drawn-out periods between releases. Apple’s total number of albums now matches the famed writer’s novel count at a mere four, despite her full sixteen years in the industry. Fans of both will agree this seemingly meager number has no bearing on either artist’s public esteem, as both have built reputations on great art, rather than media attention and Twitter updates. This explains why Apple’s work has been so highly anticipated even after seven years off the public radar, following the release of Extraordinary Machine.
The Idler Wheel is…
The new album (whose full title is The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do – we dare you to say it ten times fast) has been secretly in the works since about 2008. Working with drummer Charley Drayton as her co-producer, Apple remained true to her reclusive nature. She kept the new album under wraps right until surprising the execs at Epic Records with it earlier this year. Even if the record guys had trouble getting their tongues around the title, they had no trouble loving the songs.
While Fiona Apple’s songwriting style is characteristically frank, the stark candor of the songs on The Idler Wheel bring home Oscar Wilde’s assertion that “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” Listening to the album feels like a Magic School Bus ride, traveling deeper inside Apple’s emotive mind than ever before. It is all-acoustic, all-encompassing, and simultaneously reflects and rescues us from our own hidden struggles.
The dark jazz vibe on “Daredevil” takes us on a rhythmic survey of heartbreak, as she pleads “don’t let me ruin me” in her characteristic rough-edged voice. Some of Apple’s best piano work can be heard on “Valentine.” Drayton’s distantly buoyant drums back up her ivories on “Jonathan” and juxtapose with the song’s resigned tone. “Werewolf” showcases the singer’s musical dexterity with a driving melody, memorable lyrics, and an extended sample of screaming children at play which carries in the song’s climax.
In addition to the odd percussion on the optimistic “Anything We Want” and Fiona’s incredible vocal and piano work on “Periphery,” these singular musical experiences lead the listener through the album with unprecedented grace. However, “Hot Knife” stands out as the most striking track on the album. Backed by a bassy timpani, Apple sings lead over intricately layered harmonies repeating, “If I'm butter, if I’m butter / If I’m butter then he's a hot knife / He makes my heart a cinemascope / He's showing the dancing bird of paradise.” This final track forms a sophisticated package out of both the song and the entire album, displaying the songwriter’s jazz roots, not to mention her incomparable talent.
Fiona Apple’s Subsequent Concert Tour
Fiona launched her U.S. tour to celebrate The Idler Wheel’s release. After taking August off, Fiona will start up again on the west coast in September, move through the south, and finish on the east coast in October. There are only twenty-two shows left, which means twenty-two chances to be stunned by this exceptional New York native. Don’t miss this most passionate musical act. Visit ConcertTickets.com and find a show near you before it’s too late.