My album of this summer has certainly been Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel… It’s one of the few albums that upon every listening I want to hear it all. It’s an album that works wonderfully as an album, rather than a collection of singles. A sense of cohesion is created, for the most part, due to the constant theme of anguish that the majority of songs ooze. This is not a typical happy and light summer album. Instead it’s rather solemn, slow paced and regretful.
There’s an earnestness to this anguish that stops it from feeling overly self-aggrandising as many songs that deal in one’s woes fall into. The strain that Apple’s voice exhibits trying to hit her peak notes particularly helps to sell the sincerity of her distress. Lyrics such as “stared at you and cut myself” would seem immature without the gravity that Apple brings simply with the emotion she packs into every note.
Left Alone is my personal highlight of The Idler Wheels with the feelings of anguish coming to complete fruition with every struck piano key and high note that Apple painstakingly hits. It’s also the moment that the lyrics truly seem special and developed, for example “When you were show an orotund mutt, and I was still a dew on petals, rather than a moribund slut” “Slut” is spat out with such venom that one can’t help, but feel pity that Apple feels, or felt, such a way about herself. The throbbing refrain featuring Apple’s singing of the single word ‘alone’ is truly harrowing. Ultimately, Left Alone is Apple at her most self-disdainful, and most endearing.
Regrettably, the latter stages of the album, the last two songs really, are not as impactful, or smart as the rest of the album. Hot Knife is tonally one of the more positive songs, which puts it at odds with the rest of the album. The metaphor of butter and a hot knife feels juvenile, and that is really all this song explores. It appears shallow when compared to Daredevil or Every Single Night, which delve deep into Apple’s damaged opinion of herself.
In the hands of a lesser artist The Idler Wheel… would come off as narcissistic, and self-aggrandising, but the deftness and sincerity that Apple exposes makes this one of the more emotionally charged albums of the year. There are some low points and disappointments, but the high points are so high that it doesn’t damage the overall quality of the album substantially. A truly touching piece of art.