Sometimes weird is good. When it comes from the words of Fiona Apple, it’s really good. In her early days, Apple’s music was often rejected or shelved, but like the work of many of history’s greatest artists, the trials only furthered their drive to produce glory. Here in 2012, after many artistic hiatuses, feuds with record labels and peronal battles of her own, Apple returns to the spotlight to remind us to question what is weird, and what in these obscenities is actually quite beautiful-despite what others might do to push that away.
One way of describing her modern sound is that it’s loungy and jazzy with its piano and soft beats, sometimes poppy, tribal, eclectic yet entirely true. This is what The Idler Wheel… will always come back to.
Even in one of her strongest songs on the album, the singer implements a sort of mass cheer sound in the background of the music. It doesn’t detract from her lovely message, though, it expands its capability of mesmerizing.
The album’s title isn’t the only exhausting element of Apple’s new album. She’ll tire you out with her relentless shift-changing antics and expressive poetry-like lines. But sometimes, with this kind of energy, not the high-intensity type of rebellion you hear with, say, rock ‘n’ roll, the exhaustion is more emotionally grounded than it is audibly. Sure, it’s filled to the brim with wisdom, but after a whole runthrough of The Idler Wheel…, you might be at a loss for words yourself.
“Valentine” is an exemplary testament of this enlightenment, singing “I’ve made my peace/I’m dead, I’m done/I’ve watched you live to have my fun/I root for you, I love you.”
Apple dictates brilliance by design and nature. And by that we mean to say that Fiona Apple has a natural-born talent for expressing herself through song, as if the only way she knows how. Comparing her to Regina Spektor, Alicia Keys or even Carly Simon doesn’t do her the right justice. She’s a one-of-a-kind spirit in the likes of modern music-making, and it’s always a joy to hear what she has to offer.
And along those lines, it’s difficult to point out any serious flaws in Apple’s new content. Each song is a statement of persona and a three-minute novel about the world around us, told from the point of view of someone who’s seen and done it all.
Apple’s songwriting talents are, yet again, incredibly prolific. She leaves no room to repeat herself, aside from the inevitable chorus line, because her content is so thorough and thoughtful that it fills every blank that The Idler Wheel… would allow.
Between these thick texts we hear phrases like “You’re like the captain/of a capsized ship/but I like watching you live.“
The great fact about this album is that it’s simply not over-produced. The little cracks in her voice are out in the open, opening dialogue for the raw forefront that happens to lead her music to artistic success. It’s this bravery and embrace of every detail that makes The Idler Wheel… so inspiring. The weird, be it tribal, angsty or scat-filled, only adds to this courage that emotes through the tracks. Take it in and don’t let go.