Before listening to Fiona Apple’s newest album The Idler Wheel (or the long version The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do), I knew only two things about her. One was her first single – 1996’s “Criminal.” Two is her acceptance speech at the MTV VMA’s that year, where she briefly talked about being an individual. That notion, however small that is, it really reflects in her music. In a world where popular music has to have a driving electronic beat and Auto-Tuned lyrics, Apple manages to stand out using now foreign pop words like “instrumentation” and “talent” to make an exceptional album. And that’s what you get with The Idler Wheel; a forty-two minute album that mixes every emotion possible into ten incredibly solid tracks.
The album starts with “Every Single Night,” a sad ballad filled with music box chimes and one memorable chant for a chorus. “Daredevil” is a piano heavy drive that shows Fiona really giving it her all during her own form of a breakdown (You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when you listen to it). “Jonathan” throws out some beautiful imagery – which most of this album does – mixed in with some great instrument arrangements. “Left Alone” starts with some rambunctious percussion, and transfers into an equally rambunctious Apple who spits out her lyrics like fire.
As much as the first half is good, the second just so happens to be great. “Werewolf” is an oddly delightful break-up song where Fiona takes just as much of the blame for the relationship ending than the shark or chemical she is singing to. “Periphery” is a shuffle, dancing around a very heavy piano rhythm, while in contrast “Regret” is a desolate ballad, where Fiona loses her innocence to this strange man who has entered her life. That is only amplified when she starts screeching the chorus in an angry and upset manner. The album closes with “Hot Knife,” an almost a capella stomp that just bounces around in a relatively joyful and happy way, making it a great closer for such a knock-down-drag-through-rough-emotions of an album – if that makes any sense.
Of the ten songs on The Idler Wheel, only one song stuck out to me like a sore thumb, and that was “Valentine.” The slower parts that start the song off are great, but once the chorus comes in, it deflates the entire song. It’s mood and tempo cheer’s up, as she sings “I root for you/I love you/You you you you” for the duration of that time. However questionable as a single, it does work well with The Idler Wheel as a whole, bringing a lighter (that word being used lightly) side to the beginning of the album.
The Idler Wheel isn’t perfect, but damnit if it isn’t close. Fiona Apple incorporated all the emotions of a human being and encapsulated them into ten great songs. For only being her fourth album, this has reached a level that only legends of the business have gotten to with a lot more albums. If we are speaking of The Idler Wheel ten years from now, I would not be surprised. What is a sure fire thing The Idler Wheel has going for it right now is how it has already reserved her a spot on numerous Best Of lists – this reviewer’s included.
Final Grade: A
Go Download: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do