No record on this year’s list of expected releases has been more anticipated by yours truly than Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel (short for The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do). Some sixteen years ago I was enchanted by Apple’s beautiful debut Tidal (1996). Three years after When The Pawn Hits.. (1999) had the same effect. The full title of Apple’s sophomore album consists of 90 words, but we had plenty of time to learn it by heard, since it took six year before the singer-songwriter from New York released a third masterpiece Extraordinary Machine (2005). Another seven years have passed and finally there is a fourth album by Fiona Apple.
The Idler Wheel is certainly not an easy album. It is a typical Fiona Apple record on the one hand, with her dark voice and piano playing vying for being the most dark and emotive ingredient on the record. On the other hand the songs have become more complex and the rhythms applied on The Idler Wheel go way beyond the unseal realm of the singer-songwriter. Many songs have unexpected twists and experimental vocal styles. Because of this, it takes more time and energy to appreciate The Idler Wheel than Fiona Apple’s first three albums, but the pay back is huge. Compared to Mike Elizondo’s rich arrangements on Extraordinary Machine, The Idler Wheel is a truly naked album on which Fiona Apple’s moody piano forms a fine contrast with the brisk and sometimes jazzy rhythms of drummer Charley Drayton. The combination of the austere but quite complex sounds and Apple’s vocals, that sound even more penetrating than before, provides a series of intriguing songs.
I have to admit that initially I was a little disappointed in The Idler Wheel. But after a few concentrated listens I’ve become heavily addicted to the new album and I don’t intent to kick that habit any time soon. More even than her first three albums Fiona Apple The Idler Wheel gives me the impression that Fiona Apple has recorded it completely on her own terms. The complexity of her persona is reflected in the album and the result is quirky, adventurous, and sometimes disturbing. I doubt whether The Idler Wheel will appeal to a mainstream audience, but fans who like me dare to go that extra mile will discover a true diamond. By far the best album of the year to date. What a stunner!