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Fiona Apple-The Idler Wheel....(2012)

Discussion in 'Album Reviews' started by Soot and Stars, Jun 29, 2012.

  1. Soot and Stars

    Soot and Stars I AM SOOT! Staff Member

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    Fiona Apple-The Idler Wheel....
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    Fiona Apple is a beast unto her own in the music world. She's a reclusive artist who pays no attention to modern music and has only released 4 albums since her '96 debut. Why after all this time does she still have one of the most patient devoted fanbases existing? How is that base still growing in the dense space between albums? How does this artist command her audience so effortlessly just by following her muse? I'm sure these are all questions others ask outside of this circle but even as a fan you have to explore this quandary.

    Fiona's far from the most inviting persona in the world. Her music isn't even written to be that way. The lyrics are self indulgent, confrontational, fierce and brooding. The vocals often times delivered with venom bouncing between a woman scorned and then in a manic twist delivered playfully. I think what fans know about Fiona's persona is that it's a paradox. Not just in her music but in Fiona herself. Life isn't imitating art but in authenticity that people strive to see in an artist the music is the living, breathing persona of someone's life. It is Fiona's brain and these are thoughts that can't be contained. Fiona's whole theme is taking the universal scheme of the love song and personifying it in a way no one else can. That is her one theme and that's all she needs. It unravels from that. While other artist can write about wanting love and what their heartbreak feels like they don't put a bloody fleshy stamp on it like Fiona does. On album four she's increased this tenfold in a way only a Fiona lyric would embrace on the track Regret:


    Regret

    "I ran out of white dove feathers
    To soak up the hot piss that comes through your mouth
    Every time you address me"


    That's a far leap from Fiona's musings on her debut Tidal. There was an innocence to her brooding. The venom had peaked out in places but the whole album was subdued. It was like an undercurrent of repressed thoughts from one who hadn't learned to fight yet. The track "Sullen Girl" portrays this best when it touches on her real life rape with the lyric "It's calm under the waves in the blue of my oblivion". Throughout the album Fiona explores everything in a muddling confusion that's explored with maturity but still shows no resolution.

    It was the follow up, the equally eccentrically titled "When The Pawn..." where Fiona gained her fangs and learned to grab her muse by the balls. It's that album in which she equally castrates her prey while at the same time coming out scarred from self inflicted wounds. This is evident when she threatens that her lover will be "lying limp in your (his) own hands" with "fingers turned to fist". Vocally this recent effort matches the vocal ferocity that hasn't been heard since songs like "On The Bound". This is heard most evidently on tracks like "Daredevil" which starts out playful and lures you in for the bite:


    Daredevil


    It's that track in which Fiona shows her self-awareness hence her conflict. She knows that she's unpredictable and has a lack of self control. She's aware of needing guidance and she playfully shouts out the need of a "Chaperone". The music itself matches this as it's chaotic and has a feeling of barely being held together. It's one of my favorites if not my very favorite for that sort of cathartic release and energy.

    The theme of self conflict is written no more straight forward than and masterfully than in the track "Left Alone". It is my favorite lyric in the album as it is as raw and encapsulating a statement as Fiona has ever produced.


    Left Alone

    "How can I ask anyone to love me
    When all I do is beg to be left
    When all I do is beg to be left
    When all I do is beg to be left
    Alone
    Alone
    Alone"


    Seriously, this is as genuine as one can get and how one can get someone to stick like flypaper to their words. This is Fionas brain here. This isn't some blank sentiment made to make me feel loves ache. You can tell this is a conflict that made it to paper as she's figuring shit out. Yet I get it. I get the feeling of wanting companionship. It's warm, inviting and it's an instinctive need. I'll be damned though if I also don't see it as a threat. I love my time by myself. Like Fiona, who's three years ahead of me in the 30's club the struggle to accept something like that becomes harder with age. You are at that brink where your struggle really becomes of whether to let go or maintain what you have with who you are. It's this honestly that keeps Fiona fans with her.

    Now any Fiona fans might look at my review so far and think I'm not going to mention her prior album Extraordinary machine at this point. That album was the complete opposite of ferocity at least in it's packaging. The lyrics had bite for sure but it was coated in confectionery sugar. Fiona matured at this point in defining her sound. Fiona's always been a jazzy soul but in that album she honed in the greatest jazz greats and learned to deliver a matured subtlety missing from Tidal. Fiona doesn't yell here but she croons a sadness that gets to the core of the listener just as much. It doesn't slap you in the face this time but reaches into your chest and pulls out your heart. The new album doesn't have the smooth polish that Jon Brion added to that album but songs like Valentine definitely took their cue from that album:


    Valentine


    What makes Idler Wheel more than just an amalgamation of these prior albums is that the process was an organic process of Fiona adding flourishes to her sound rather than just changing it. Fiona took out Jon Brion, a proven successful and long time collaborator, and produce it with her drummer. The album process was at her leisure which is an option few artist are warranted. It was built in pieces over a period of about four years. While Fiona's last album had a lot of lush instrumentation and the electronic presence added by Brion this albums adds a coarser, more organic foundation. Fiona increases her arsenal like never before adding her own loops and percussion as well as adding keyboard bass and celeste to the arsenal at her fingertips. She also produced, composed, played the timpani as well as took her recording sessions in random places and collecting random inspiration. She played outside in the field as part of the process as well as took everything from an assumable literal truck stomper to a random scene of children screaming on television she heard on television and integrated it. Both these can be heard in the following tracks:

    Periphery
    (Truck Stomper at beginning and end)


    Werewolf
    (Children screaming @ 2:10)


    Songs like Werewolf are enjoyable in their own right but it's this spontaneity as well as other brief moments on the album that give this album it's flavor. With a cast of musicians that play the gambit (autoharp, baritone, bouzouki,
    cora, drums, guitar, marimba, percussion, bass (acoustic)) you have an album that features that girl on piano with something way beyond that. Fiona has an attachment to this record without even trying. From everything to the music itself in which she's created this vision to the very artwork she's made an album that extends beyond itself. It's a piece of what Fiona was when she made this album. It's as genuine as music gets and blends the realms behind what's music and what's art!

    This is why Fiona still exists! This is why Fiona doesn't fade into obscurity even when she disappears from the public consciousness. It's because we know what Fiona is and it's real to us. It's something worth waiting for because at this level it's as obscure and as sporadic to find as are Fiona's own patterns. So with all the talk I've made of Fiona's pattern let's end this on a high note with the closing track of Fiona's new album. Coincidentally this track is as vibrant and rhythmically uplifting as anything she's ever done. It's a pure jazz dance tune! How appropriate for someone as maniacally unpredictable as Fiona herself! :grinthumb

    Hot Knife

     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2018
  2. Aktivator

    Aktivator aka Hightea

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    Re: Fiona Apple-The Idler Wheel....

    Beautifully written soot.
     
  3. Soot and Stars

    Soot and Stars I AM SOOT! Staff Member

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    Re: Fiona Apple-The Idler Wheel....

    Thank you Aktivator! I definitely think this is tied as my favorite album by her alongside When The Pawn....! :grinthumb
     
  4. Aktivator

    Aktivator aka Hightea

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    Re: Fiona Apple-The Idler Wheel....

    When the pawn will always be my favorite soot, it is very personal to me at I time when I was lost. ThAt album changed my life in so many ways and at the same time I watched Fiona breakdown on stage just after some girl ran infront of me and threw up. It was a miserable nite as a few hours before the show my girlfriend of 5 years told me she was moving to Hawaii and breaking up with me. Then at her makeup show a fw months later I met a group of people who became my close friends and this began a new happy time for me. Realize before that Fiona show I only went to 3 or 4 concerts a year. The next few years it was over 100 shows a year.

    Tonight I going to Fiona with my friend I met that night, I know at some point we will be close to tears. I never thought at artist could wrap me that much in their music and eventhough I don't relate to what she really is singing about it still strikes a cord with me.

    Then there is the extraordinary years ... That's a whole other story I was part of the movement to get it released.
     
  5. Soot and Stars

    Soot and Stars I AM SOOT! Staff Member

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    Re: Fiona Apple-The Idler Wheel....

    Oh wow! I knew you were a Fiona fan but I never realized it was that intimate and meaningful of a connection. Experiences really do shape what we like at times just as much as the music itself. Unfortunately, Fiona is at the top of the bucket list of performers I've yet to see! I would love to change that someday! :)
     
  6. Aktivator

    Aktivator aka Hightea

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    Re: Fiona Apple-The Idler Wheel....

    I hope you get to see her soot, she is wonderful live and now she really cares about her fans.

    I love her story she told about she would hear her fans yell I love you and said she couldnt yell it back because she didn't know them and felt it was personal to say I love you. She realized now that she has devoted fans and eventhough she doesn't know them she does love them back. She says it too :)
     
  7. Gabble Ratchet

    Gabble Ratchet Senior Member

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    Re: Fiona Apple-The Idler Wheel....

    Amazing review Bryan, you've perked my intrigue into Fiona's music even further.
     
  8. Taboo

    Taboo Toward the Within

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    Great review Soot! Very well written. The percussive element to the album is simply outstanding.. All the songs are great and I'm always finding myself singing them, trying to imitate Fiona when she's singing Every Single Night, heh. This is definitely up there for my list of AOTY.
     
  9. Soot and Stars

    Soot and Stars I AM SOOT! Staff Member

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    Thanks guys! I'm glad I did the album or artist justice and that current fans were able to check it out as well as new potential fans! :cheers2
     
  10. Sunny

    Sunny Settled down at last and very happy.

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    Jimmy is a huge Fiona Apple fan and so I have been listening to The Idler Wheel a fair bit over the past week. I think Fiona's music can be extraordinarily beautiful and very emotional. In Daredevil the lyrics sound like she is teetering on the edge of emotional breakdown and by the time she sings "I stare at you and cut myself" in the song Valentine, you're convinced of it - then on Left Alone and Werewolf, you hear a much more upbeat Fiona. Wonderful album :)
     

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