A lot gets made of Fiona Apple’s long pauses between albums. To many of us, it might seem that she’s the rare type of artist who feeds off inertia more so than momentum — someone who closes the sink of inspiration when finished rather than letting that faucet gush for all it’s worth. Mainly, I think we all get a little bummed that days like today — that is, days when a new Fiona Apple album drops — come less frequently than many rare celestial occurrences. It’s a fair emotion, even if it just means we’re spoiled rotten by the music she has given us.
But nothing is ever quite as it seems. As editor Ben Kaye revealed today, Apple is actually one of the more collaborative artists around, popping up in numerous places alongside dozens of fellow musicians between her official releases. Both he and staff writer Irene Monokandilos, who reviewed Apple’s latest masterpiece, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, argue that time plays a part in making each Apple release so unique. The latter notes that the challenges of embracing this new record include learning the language of the unorthodox, “homegrown percussion” in play. In other words, even we have to take our time.
Admittedly, it did take a few listens to absorb and understand the clattering percussion and alternating piano parts of opening track “I Want You to Love Me” that build to more forceful lyrical statements like “And while I’m in this body/ I want somebody to want.” And while Apple has explained that this is a love song that has changed along with the apple of her eye several times, the opening verse seems to weigh in deeply on how she views the time between mile markers — be they albums or relationships. “I’ve waited many years/ Every print I left upon the track/ Has led me here,” more explaining than singing. “And next year, it’ll be clear/ This was only leading me to that.” In that light, we no longer think of Fiona Apple as an artist who embraces stillness. She’s an artist always in the moment with the full recognition that its sole purpose is to lead her on to the next.
Her last album came out when she was 34. She’s now 42. Anyone who has made a similar leap in age knows that we’re listening to a very different person now. Apple leaves us with this conundrum then. We can think of — and almost need to — “I Want You to Love Me” and Bolt Cutters as a reintroduction. We also have to accept that this Fiona Apple — love her as we might — is only a stepping stone towards the next.
For Fans Of: As Irene Monokandilos wrote in her review of Bolt Cutters: “In both lyrics and in sound, the record demands repeat passes and is bound to be polarizing for those looking for something pop-perfect and full of convention. For the uninitiated and the uncommitted alike, Apple’s homegrown percussion could feel overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. What do you expect from an album featuring drum lines tapped out on the box containing her dead dog’s bones?” Bones aside, this isn’t a standard pop album. It derives its beauty from both its unexpected turns and ability to somehow make so many seemingly disjointed parts come together in the end to achieve an effect.
Best Moment: The climb of Apple’s voice as she becomes more forceful in declaring what she wants. Her voice is full of dynamic shifts that are as creatively pieced together as the accompanying instruments.
Where to Go From Here: The where and when may not even be on the horizon. Let’s just enjoy this song and album and worry about tomorrow another day.
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