Music Reviews
The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Fiona Apple The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

(Epic) Rating - 9/10

There’s really a limit to the amount of distress one can take. To which the page becomes the disclosure of the soul that is transferred to it. Some communicate it more quickly with a scorching impulse while others are careful to sketch every single detail with the purpose of contemplating the bigger picture, thus, to get a better understanding on things. For a tempestuous songwriter like Fiona Apple, every single anguished cry is documented, twisted, and finally contorted as such that its meanings are indecipherable to the listener. They’re far from being elusive, as one can figure out what she’s truly feeling, and you never get the sense that you’re coarsely intruding into her intimate life.

So it’s kind of a revelation that in Jonathan, the one account in The Idler Wheel… that actually gives us insight into a subject that actually marked her past, Apple dares to describe an ungenuine romantic gesture in embarrassing detail. She’s never been coy about calling attention with her confessional jabs, but hauling out a veritable quandary of slight encounters really feels like something new.  In a time when being a celebrity means interacting with a fanbase while providing no direct access to it, she opens as much as possible in the duration of a full length while retaining a closeted anonymity. The seven-year wait implies that she desires to be a non-artist, noncommittal to usual recording schedules but with the advantage of having an actual audience who’ll pay attention whenever she feels like doing it.

Apple’s barefaced honesty puts her at a league above so many singer songwriters, whose idea of storytelling means turning the knob at a gumball bank and waiting for what the drop will bring.  That process of guesswork is hard to make meaningful, and especially inadequate when one can just take from life’s unfortunate circumstances. But as they say, a little eccentricity goes a long way. And in the case of Apple, it’s her entire spiel – in Valentine, she describes cutting herself when her significant other’s eyes are elsewhere, stressing her hysterical torment as she repeats: you you you you. Or how in Daredevil, her voice turns hoarse as she cries - look at me, I’m all the fishes in the sea - with the same uncontrollable outburst of a growing teen.

Apple has always been one to boast extravagant emotions over minimal arrangements, yet The Idler Wheel… employs the bare minimum, instrumentally, as groundwork to whip up very complex compositions. The grand piano is certainly the album’s centerpiece, a living, breathing character that’s just as defenseless as its maker - going from rhythmic swagger when exhilarated to calmly stroked at its most poised, it’s actually leveled with a certain magnitude of dissonance.  It has these oddly syncopated motions that go in complete sync with the thumping percussion, both performed within an airy, expansive space given that most of the other instruments are constructed from everyday nature sounds.

With a confectionery of similarly colored assortments, The Idler Wheel… retrenches most of her past output, whether its wistful balladeering or sultry jazz, as a means of expelling a truly uncharacteristic voice. The sparse, even unprompted production only makes it richer, resulting in a fascinating unanimity of piano and voice that turns more involving with every clink, clatter, and clap. So it lets Apple’s tetchy side run loose, a quality so prominent that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that she can also phrase loads of darkly humorous verses. Apple continues to straddle somewhere between high art and adult contemporary, writing for the kind of nifty pop music that’s refined, but with a common touch.