Now I know I have written about the Idler Wheel’s first track Every Single Night a week or two ago, but there is something about that album that draws the listener back in for a second, third, and tenth listen. The Idler Wheel is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will Serve You More than Ropes will Ever Do is a different type of album, and you can tell that right off from the name. Having not released an album in over five years, many had feared that Apple would never return, that she would never rise again to the prominence that she previously had. Any doubts that they could possibly have had now have been dashed thoroughly by The Idler Wheel, which features some of the best songwriting I have heard this year, and those vocals are some of the best and most interesting vocals around.
In comparison to some other strong female singers on the scene these days Apple comes across as one of the more honest and up front. Unlike acts like Tune-Yards and St. Vincent who sport strong female singers tackling various women’s issues in a convicted rarely wavering voice, Fiona Apple is a little bit less certain. And while Apple may not be so certain of herself, she seems to speak to a more vulnerable audience, one that can relate to her struggles and triumphs. Her voice seems to well up from a deep and personal space that few other artists ever get to visit, that few other artists even know about. The album tries to let you in to peel back the layers of her psyche, letting the listener right into the place where the lyrics come from, and for the most part it succeeds.
Lyrically, Apple is at her best. While many of the tracks focus on poor relationships and focus deeply on Apple’s self-deemed social inadequacies, they never feel stale, pushed forth by Apple’s driving vocals and undeniable wit. Tracks like Werewolf, Valentine, Periphery, and the aforementioned Every Single Night makeup the backbone of the album and serve as could be singles. The rest of the tracks too are solid, with strong vocals picking up where songwriting levels out, and with vocals rarely being anything less than spectacular. And it’s those vocals that really breathe existence into all of the songs. Apple’s vocals are probably the most unconventional out their right now. She never just relies on the pretty qualities of her voice, which really says something about her, because her voice is rather beautiful. Instead Apple uses all kinds of creative tricks and tactics that you won’t be able to hear anywhere else.