Fiona Apple

Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Epic)

By now, you’ve more than likely heard/read at least some of the near-deafening buzz surrounding the release of Fiona Apple’s new album. Even if you missed the NPR online listening party on April 17, the excitement has been tough to ignore.

It’s hardly surprising; it’s been eight years since her last full lengther — 2012’s The Idler Wheel — and it’s still only her fifth in total. Extraordinary Machine came seven years before that, and When the Pawn came six years before that. So it’s always been about “quality over quantity” for Apple — she’s hardly prolific. Then when the albums drop, it’s a bonafide event. Hence all of this buzz.

The great news is, the album is absolutely deserving of all the attention and more. When Apple is at her best, as she is here, it feels like she’s singing directly to the individual listener. Her lyrics are so raw, deep-reaching and heart-wrenching, she’s exactly the artist that we needed during the current, ongoing insanity.

“You get dragged down, down to the same spot enough times in a row, the bottom begins to feel like the only safe place that you know,” she sings on “Heavy Balloon.” And shit, who can’t relate to that? She likely didn’t write it about the safety-in-fear of lockdown, but it sure applies.

Perhaps appropriately, Apple recorded this deeply personal record in her home studio and, while it does feel particularly relevant  during the pandemic, the title and subject matter actually relates to freedom from oppression for women.

“Ruminations on the looming effect, And the parallax view, and the figure, And the form, and the revolving door that keeps, Turning out more and more, Good women like you, Yet another woman, to whom I won’t get through,” she croons on “Ladies.”

Beyond the devastating lyrics, the musicianship and production is dense and crushing. The sweet and honest singer/songwriter that the world fell in love with through Tidal is still there, but there’s a stark sense of adventure here. The percussion is near tribal, and the songs take numerous turns off of the conventional path.

If we’d forgotten that we needed Fiona Apple, this record is a clear reminder.

(Epic)