Weekly Music: New Fiona Apple

The crazytown video for Every Single Night, directed by Joseph Cahill

I’ve mentioned this before, but Fiona Apple played a huge role in my coming of age. I don’t think any other musician means as much to me as she does. I’ve had obsessive stints with others, but I always come back to Fiona, Fiona, Fiona. For some it was a phase they laugh about now, but not me. I stuck with her, even when Extraordinary Machine came out and I was, and still am, not the biggest fan of the album. She’s like an old friend that I worry about occasionally, that I’m protective of, that I defend. She’s such an original and so unique. She’s unapologetic, but not afraid to change and admit mistakes or regret. Someone in the NPR comments said the best thing about her: “Songs pop singers put out today are like snacks. Fiona’s songs are like meals.” So for that I thought she deserved a real review, even though articulating my thoughts about music is not my strong suit.

Her new album is streaming on NPR until it comes out next week. The Idler Wheel… (official title, in true Fiona fashion: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do) songs are mouthfuls of lyrics she alternates between shouting and sweetly cooing out. You can practically see her writhing and twisting while she sings, her eyes closed and arms raised as she’s known to do. The songs, to me, are more put together and beautiful than those on Extraordinary Machine, but are definitely quite off-beat when compared to her first two albums. They’re experimental and sometimes her throat-shouting singing make your eyes widen. Stand outs are the first single, “Every Single Night”, “Daredevil”, the waltzy beautiful tune “Valentine” (reminds me a bit of “Paper Bag”), and “Anything We Want”. She loses me a touch on the muddy “Jonathan” and “Left Alone” is almost a bit too uncomfortable for me to listen to, but she pulls me back in with “Werewolf” and lyrics you can’t help but smirk at. “I could liken you to werewolf, the way you left me for dead/But I admit that I provided a full moon”. Her cleverness on the album is stronger than ever before, that’s for sure.

So overall, it’s on constant repeat for me. Songs get stuck in my head like mad. I absolutely love it, even if at times I hold my breath at the sound of her shouts. As Anne Powers puts it well in the NPR review, “She doesn’t simply push herself vocally; she embraces the role of the contortionist, the strange expression, the note that might make someone turn away.” My fellow Fiona fan Elissa may be right when she said to me that it’s probably an album that fans will love, but new listeners might find a bit too “out there”. That’s fine by me, we can keep her for ourselves.

Update: I missed this great recent interview with her on NPR. Interesting tidbits: she doesn’t plan on having kids, but buys parenting books to learn how to “parent” herself. Also, her sister Margot, who is a cabaret singer, sings harmony on this album. She talks about what an amazing experience it was, which I think is so cool as someone who makes music with their sibling.