It seems like Fiona Apple actually obtained a giant head begin on us with this complete quarantining factor. Followers don’t must be reminded that it’s been eight years since her earlier album, “The Loafer Wheel…” (although they in all probability would require a refresher on its full 23-word title, which as soon as may need been dedicated to reminiscence). Anyone else who disappeared as a recording artist for that lengthy would have been out flogging the catalog, one thing that’s assuredly not her bag; even the intermittent cameos she used to do at L.A.’s Largo membership halted as she retreated ever inward. That appeared simply accurately, up to some extent: In 4 scant earlier albums over a quarter-century, Apple had change into pop music’s queen of extraordinarily inside designs.
However studying the current 10,000-word New Yorker profile, you could possibly marvel, as you’d of anybody who spent years making an album, if it’d find yourself feeling hermetically sealed inside Apple’s head. “I’m so anxious about this album,” an acquaintance tweeted final week. Possibly he meant “keen,” but when he supposed to convey precise album-eve nervousness, effectively, he wouldn’t have been alone in that.
So it feels good to take “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” off our plate of issues and transfer it over to the mantle of issues that can convey us pleasure whereas we’re locked down. Indulgent solely in the precise methods, it’d even be Apple’s greatest album. However as she says in one of many songs, “No love is like some other love, so it might be insane to make a comparability,” so perhaps we’ll overlook about rankings and simply affirm that it’s album-of-the-year contender materials. Which isn’t to ensure that it’ll be, like, fashionable; a lot of the fabric is difficult on first hear, and smoothness is a high quality Apple consigns to criminals, not her personal middle-period work. However rattling, it’s good, in a wealthy and deep means that’ll have you ever reaching for headphones and a lyric sheet to rediscover totally different selection morsels within the coming weeks or months of this shared lockdown. It’s a musical meals financial institution unto itself.
“Bed room pop” has one way or the other change into an accepted style in recent times, and Apple’s album is probably the most subtle potential model of that: “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” was made largely at residence, with the identical core of three different musicians (Amy Aileen Wooden, Sebastian Steinberg, David Garza) sharing manufacturing credit score and doing just about all the enjoying. A further credit score does go to a few canine for “collar jangles and thrashing,” and that is the form of album the place songs would possibly start or finish with the informal sound of shuffling, buzzing, strumming or, sure, barking. And a lot of the percussion on the album consists of Tom Waits-ian use of presumably random surfaces for syncopation (Steinberg will get a “lighter on Wulitzer” credit score on one tune) that you simply’d are inclined to name it an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink method… besides that it’s arduous to be sure that that churning sound on the finish of “Shameika” isn’t a rubbish disposal. However emphasizing these sound results, odd intros and outros and drum muddle dangers making the document sound low-fi, which is hardly the case. The luxuriant-feeling manufacturing design, often based mostly round turning nothing greater than piano, acoustic bass and drumsticks into one thing deeply spacious, is a contented factor to get misplaced and located in.
However the query everybody will look to have answered with “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” isn’t a musical puzzle — it’s “How’re you feeling, Fiona?” As a result of what followers have at all times appreciated about Apple is that in a single sense she’s all uncooked, uncovered nerves, and in one other, she’s as cerebral as singer-songwriters get, presumably to a mind-racing fault. Every of the 13 songs right here is a couple of very particular expertise or emotion, and so they’re nearly (nearly) typical in how coherent, if not laser-focused, all of them are — though it doesn’t damage to have that current New Yorker piece by the bedside as a decoder ring for a few of what she’s writing about.
The opening “I Need You to Love Me” is the album’s purest and maybe solely expression of unfiltered want, going down over a cascade of 6/eight thunder on the decrease finish of the piano keys that threatens to change into discordant till it pulls again into livid magnificence. “I do know none of this can matter in the long term,” she sings, dealing with the perils of mortality and impermanence as all us Netflix addicts are proper now — however “whereas I’m on this physique, I would like anyone to need,” she additional declares, singing herself hoarse over the intricately performed riffs. (All this lust for love crescendos in some vocal gymnastics that sound like an homage to Yoko — early Yoko, thoughts you — which is likely to be the precise second whenever you resolve whether or not that is the album for you.)
However a lot of the remainder of the album is worried with variations on a theme: bullying. Within the second quantity, an much more frantically performed 6/eight exercise known as “Shameika,” Apple remembers a nervous childhood by which the imply lady of the title instructed her that she “had potential,” a wierd combined message that she took to coronary heart one way or the other. In a ravishing illustration of the positive line between obsessive-compulsive dysfunction and music, she describes strolling to and from the schoolyard “grinding my tooth to a rhythm invisible” and stomping on fallen leaves to make them into crash cymbals.
It’s a brief journey from that to a number of songs which have her bullied by an grownup male vital different. “Beneath the Desk” has a person tapping her on the shin, unseen, making an attempt to hush her at a cocktail party she didn’t wish to attend: “That fancy wine gained’t put this fireplace out… Kick me beneath the desk all you need, I gained’t shut up,” she repeats, melodically however firmly, within the nice sing-along chorus of what seems like this era’s replace of Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry.”
Apple actually is aware of how one can prepare her consideration on a foul, unhealthy man, and typically for a mordant chuckle, as in “Rack of His,” which is as humorous as you’d hope from the promising title. Sure, it’s a couple of musician. “Take a look at that rack of his, have a look at that row of guitar necks / Lined up like keen fillies, outstretched like legs of Rockettes,” she sings. “I believed you’d wail on me such as you wail on them.” These are apparent, and great, chuckle strains, however she additionally has a means of bringing a tune again from the land of similes and smiles to one thing a little bit bit spookier by the point it’s throughout.
Much more attention-grabbing than among the songs about males are those about girls — particularly, her fascination with those who attached along with her companion after her. She typically pairs thematically aligned songs collectively within the working order of the album, and “Newspaper” and “Women” are two psychologically savvy and self-searching numbers in a row by which Apple admits both a voyeuristic curiosity in or misplaced want to rescue her ex-lover’s new beau (“I watch him stroll over, discuss over, be imply to you, and it makes me really feel near you”).
Additionally grouped collectively are “Heavy Balloons” and “Cosmonauts,” two successive tunes that use comparable metaphors about ballast and feeling weighted all the way down to fully totally different moods and impact. There’s no companion piece, although, for the lyrically heaviest tune, “For Her.” It’s certainly not accidentally that that is the one quantity on the album by which Fiona sings and performs all the pieces herself, given the non-public nature of the subject material. The brilliance of “For Her” is that it feels fully improvised, with its stream of consciousness and unpredictable tempo modifications — besides that it additionally sounds fully exact, in the best way Apple has overdubbed her personal voice. It’s arduous to inform the place precisely she’s going with this story of a coke-snorting demon lover, till she type of quotes a tune from “Singin’ within the Rain,” adopted by a shock line: “Good mornin’, good mornin’ / You raped me in the identical mattress your daughter was born in.”
That quantity clearly will get at simply how sober and bracing “Bolt Cutters” can get, in moments, nevertheless it doesn’t spend a lot time there that it’s something however a wickedly pleasurable sit, playful in its gonzo expansiveness and wanting to perk up your ears with an sudden melodic shift or hip-hop-influenced means of witty speak-singing. It’s the form of work the place you come away pondering Apple is rather like you and likewise 10 instances extra good than you — and a little bit exhausting, certain, however with a inventive ingenuity that’s inexhaustible in the best way it attracts you again in to hit “play” each time the final notes sound.
The closing tune, which dispenses along with her reward for quirky melodic turns to give up itself to pure rhythm, may virtually have been written as an anthem for a sheltering-at-home era that’s now questioning what its huge hurry ever was. “Up till now in a rush to show / However now, I solely transfer to maneuver,” she chants within the closing moments.
Our quarantine companion did nonetheless have one thing to show, whether or not she preferred it or not —that she hadn’t been squandering her capacity to maneuver us. Slightly than sounding as labored over because it clearly was, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” sounds as recent as one thing that crossed Apple’s fertile thoughts 10 minutes in the past. It could be means early to say it’s probably the most satisfying album of the yr, but when there are any extra to come back alongside this good, 2020 is just not going to really feel like such a waste of time in spite of everything.
“Fetch the Bolt Cutters”
Producer/musicians: Apple, Amy Aileen Wooden, Sebastian Steinberg, David Garza. Background vocals: Apple, Amber Maggart, Winifred Fortunate, Cara Delevinge. Mixers: Dave Method, Tchad Blake, John Would. Writers: Apple, Steinberg, Garza.