audio review : The Idler Wheel ( album ) … Fiona Apple

audio review : The Idler Wheel ( album ) ... Fiona Apple

The best songs from Fiona Apple’s last album are the two Jon Brion productions left intact after the singer decided to remake it without him. She enlisted the less experimental, more radio-friendly talents of Mike Elizondo and Brian Kehew. Now the expulsion of Jon Brion is complete as his music is nowhere to be heard on this new set, entitled The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do because, in Fiona Apple’s world, there is no character limit on album titles.

What’s pleasing to the ears is the minimalist approach of these songs. Drummer Charley Drayton is involved, but this isn’t an album that’s driven by beats, so the drums aren’t so obvious. Even on a song like Left Alone, which begins with thirty seconds of drums, they’re panned to the left or the right and set at a relatively low volume in the mix. In fact, all of the percussion sounds take a back row to Fiona Apple’s voice, which is almost always right there up front. For some reason, the starting lead vocals of Daredevil are (also) panned to the left.

With that, the overall message seems to be, “Hey, listen to what I have to say.” But this is mostly just amorous poetry about Jonathan or whatever boyfriend Fiona is thinking about, even the closing song. That means she’s a typical romantic; “I love you,” she says to her Valentine; made interesting and original only because of her quirkiness. The closest thing to a typical catchy chorus is the refrain of Anything We Want; the album’s best, or at least most easily accessible, song. The best moment is when the Hot Knife piano first comes in.

But Every Single Night is annoying. I don’t know what made her think it was a good idea to stretch the word “brain” out to eight syllables. It would sound silly at two. Eight just makes it four times worse. She’s also grown careless when it comes to the sound of her voice, sometimes letting it distort into an ugly growl as if vocal intonation is her sole way of conveying emotion. Not that such flaws would matter much if she were singing pretty melodies consistently instead of contrasting them with not-so-pretty ones for the sake of artistic creativity.

my rating : 3 of 5


1 reply :

  1. I feel this to be a pouring out of emotions from Ms. Apple…perhaps the album she always wanted to make. I can only appreciate an artist who produces her own music. Too much over produced trendy cookie cutter stuff out there these days that ages like milk. I thought Extraordinary Machine suffered from over-compression.

    (10 syllables)…of brilliance.

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