Who else out there was super psyched for the release of Fiona Apple’s new album on Tuesday? Because I was super, super psyched for it. And it hasn’t let me down. I’m in love!
The Idler Wheel is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do, Apple’s new album more commonly referred to as The Idler Wheel…, is a tragically beautiful examination of the ups and downs of the human heart. Fiona Apple darts into the center of the soul, muddles around until she finds the dirty bits of coal, then floats back out through pressure tubes that turn the coal into diamonds.
And I’m obsessed with it. It’s a very solid transition in style from Extraordinary Machine (2005) to something a little bit more raw, a little bit more tribal, and still entirely Fiona Apple. The lyrics bounce from tongue to cheek, the melodies ignore the fact that they’re supposed to be melodious, the piano does the same, and the drums crash into the tracks like a car into a deer on a backwoods road at night. Apple goes all out on this album, and the results are powerfully painful and beautiful.
The thing about Fiona Apple is that she’s never been afraid to address the darkness of the human heart. People have always called her moody and troubled, but they don’t understand that “there’s nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key.” And Apple doesn’t care what they think at all. She writes her mind, not anybody else’s (except for maybe mine?).
The opening track on this album, “Every Single Night,” is a chilling and creepy tune that reminds me of schizophrenia (to be honest), but in the best way possible. Like, schizophrenia ala Sylvia Plath. The lyrics are pure poetry, and they paint a picture of a troubled mind reaching out to the world and trying to interpret all of the difficulties of life through a non-average lens. And it’s a regular struggle (“Every single night, I endure the flight of little wings of white-flamed butterflies in my brain”) when you have a struggle in your brain. And all too often, medicine’s cure is to medicate you into sensory nirvana (not a good thing), but what if you want to feel everything? The mind and the psyche is such a delicate thing, and you don’t have to have a serious mental illness to appreciate the struggle to keep sane sometimes. If you check out her website right now, the lyrics are on the home page. It reads like Anne Sexton with lemon zest, so basically delicious. I love it.
And the goodness of this album doesn’t stop there. In fact, it just keeps getting better. Highlight songs from the middle, for me, are “Jonathan,” “Werewolf,” and “Periphery.” Especially “Werewolf,” which is somehow able to incorporate mythology, music theory and chemistry into one song. And I think it’s good for us to remember that sometimes songs do end in minor (aka episodes in our life end sadly or bitterly or unpleasantly), but to remember that the album keeps going after that. And “Periphery” is just hilarious (“Oh, the Periphery. They throw good parties there. Those peripheral idiots always have a bite to bear”). Apple’s humor is so incisive and demanding, but it is pure hilarity.
And this riot of a roller coaster of dark emotions and troubled souls (again, in the best way possible) is all distilled down into the final track, “Hot Knife.” I love this song! It’s like a mix of ragtime and adorable and that Genesis rhythm that beats into your bones because it’s in your essence. And the lyrics really are just so cute. Fiona Apple did a cute song, everybody. Cute. Fiona Apple. You didn’t think it was possible, but Fiona Apple is impossibly impressive in her musical abilities.
I want to talk about the music video for “Every Single Night” really quick. I know some people were asking if it was a little over the top, but I think it’s perfect (I also think, “Yay! I’m not the only person who’s ever had tentacles in her hair!”). Everything is structured to give you a deeper and deeper clue into the depths of this woman’s psyche. I also think it’s impressive how the make up artists can make Fiona look like she’s 45 and 25 in the same video. The creepy crawly snails and octopus features give the entire frame of the story a disgustingly beautiful layer of dirt. It’s uncomfortable, but so is the mind. And everything in the mind is connected in some way.
So I just have one real analysis for everything that Fiona Apple just did. Beautiful, Fiona. Absolutely Beautiful. Are you actually inside of my brain? Because I feel like this is the musical version of the book that I’ve been writing for the past year. And I love it. Please keep it coming (but take all the time you need/want, because it’s worth the wait to get your best).