The Idler Wheel
The idler wheel is wiser than the driver of the screw and whipping cords will serve you more than ropes will ever do.
Or more simply The Idler Wheel… is Fiona Apple’s fourth album, and the first since 2005’s Extraordinary Machine. The revered New York pixie with the engaging eyes and contralto voice was never going to release a sweeping, blockbuster of an album, not in the same way Adele’s 21 is.
But Apple is no crooner. Instead, the album offers haunting drumming by co-producer Charley Drayton, erratic piano work by Apple and not a single catchy hook or melody. The Idler Wheel…is fodder for critics and a jazz (or something like it) connoisseur’s wet dream.
It’s the type of album that makes critics use terms like contralto. The first single is opener “Every Single Night”, a sweet lullaby which trails off into wailing, gyspy-like harmonies during the choruses, reminiscent of the recent few Florence & the Machine years. But, I said, Apple is no crooner. At exactly 01:46 into the second track, “Daredevil”, Apple goes slightly fucking mental and never looks back – voice breaking as she yells over the suffocated bass, eerie piano and frantic rhythms. And I don’t know whether to be turned on, or back away slowly. That’s four emotions and we’re only six minutes in, such is Fiona Apple’s energy.
I am glad that Fiona Apple has only released four albums in the past 16 years. Because as wild and awkward as The Idler Wheel… is, there is neither a single forced note nor an out of place drumbeat on the entire album, and even though the album has been in production for many years it is not overworked or over thought. It is quite a difficult trick to pull off. The album is not easy listening, but Fiona Apple’s vocals will draw you in right from the beginning, and leave you comforted, and freaked out. Apple is no crooner.