Album Review: Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...

1 July 2012 | 6:37 pm | Matt MacMaster

The Idler Wheel… is an insular, moody, self-indulgent work.

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So I'm not sure if you noticed, but Fiona Apple's been away for a bit. No biggie, she just decided to chill for seven years. Whilst the reasons she left the scene may not be a Readers' Digest story of the month, the indie-sphere is treating her return as the second coming (as usual), and that's just silly. Her new album, whose full title I can't actually fit into this article's word limit, is being lauded by critics everywhere, but the attention is profoundly misdirected. The Idler Wheel… is an insular, moody, self-indulgent work that is as emaciated as Apple's lithe form. It has no meat and nothing fuelling it but confused angst. For such a personal, record it strangely lacks guts.

She's always been brutally honest, and that's part of her appeal. Here, though, it borders on creepy. Take Jonathan for example. It's about her ex. Lines like “I like watching you live” might've sounded fine on paper, and whilst her heart might be in the right place it just comes off as… unstable. I'm sure his current squeeze is fine with it though… right?

This is a bare-bones studio record, and her gaunt experimentation is unsettling. Minor chords and pop melodies fight each other for space amidst clockwork rhythms, which just sounds weird. She becomes unstuck in certain places, her emotion getting the better of her voice, and while some folks make it sound appealing (Bjork, WU LYF), Apple makes it sound like the wheels are falling off.

If nothing else The Idler Wheel… will have you reaching for Tidal again to remember how good Fiona Apple used to be. Consider that a silver lining.

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