Monday, 23 July 2012

Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel : Album Review

Fiona Apple's 4th studio album went on sale last June and gave fans another long-overdue (7 years!) set of new material. It can be remembered that her 3rd album Extraordinary Machine suffered a similar fate when the release kept getting postponed until 5 years later. Had it not been for fans who petitioned over the record label, EM wouldn't have been reworked to see the light of day in 2005. As for The Idler Wheel, it was more of Fiona taking her time writing the songs between 2008-2011 and then waiting for her label's management to stabilize before finally deciding to let the album out in 2012. It is available in several formats: CD, CD/DVD, LP and digital download.

The Idler Wheel has Fiona collaborating with percussionist Charley Drayton on all 10 tracks resulting to a more drum-bass driven production. She provides her usual jazzy keyboard works as with her last 3 albums. The simplified keyboard+percussion production give the suitable background to highlight her deep alto voice making the jazz-rock genre all her own. In over 40 minutes runtime, 10 tracks take their turns to amaze loyal fans albeit confusing casual listeners. Most, if not all, of the songs do not have a distinct hook and without keen listening, one may fail to distinguish a song from another. Credit this to Fiona's uniform-sounding vocals and very similar instrumentation of all the songs. This is never a problem for someone like me who has followed Fiona eversince her debut album Tidal. Over the years, the only forces that bind every song she has sung were her voice and her keyboards; much like how you would put it for Tori Amos only that the latter tends to tread away from her trademark genre towards the border of mainstream pop musicality.

The pieces on this album do not exceed or even match the subtle jazzy brilliance of Tidal or the melodiously angry triumph of When The Pawn, but they altogether unify as symphonically lachrymose and easily trump the songs of her junior offering Extraordinary Machine. Anger still manifests itself across the collection but now notably muted by the more resonant melancholy that echoes all throughout. Fiona lets her listeners feel her wistful tendencies drowned by deep sadness as she harbours bitterness of feeling in some occassions. Newbie listeners couldn't help but wonder how an album could be so raw without the trimmings of feel-good pop. This detachment to the mainstream leave some unable to relate then abandon the album thus failing to connect with Fiona's idiosynchratic genius. While the album flows like honey, certain tracks contendedly stand-out as the finest of them all. 7 songs are tops but here are 5 to sample a taste.

Preview the 5 best tracks :

The verdict on music:       Very Satisfactory.    (7.5/10)

Upon it's release, The Idler Wheel made it to #3 on the US Top 200 making it Fiona's highest charting album in the Billboard Album Charts ever. It went to #1 on both the US Rock Album Charts and Alternative Album Charts. In other countries, it had the most a two-week run on the official charts as reflection of small success. 

Chart Performance Peaks for The Idler Wheel 

USA                                 # 3
Canada                            # 13
Portugal                          # 20
Australia                         # 23
Switzerland                    # 28
New Zealand                  # 30
Austria                           # 52
France                            # 54
Germany                        # 56
Italy                                # 61
Netherlands                   # 62
Japan                             # 68
UK                                  # 68
Ireland                           # 78 
Mexico                           # 91
Spain                              # 100
Belgium (F)                   # 116
Belgium (W)                 # 149

Every Single Night was the first single released in April 2012. It is actually the opening song of the album and easily becomes the most remembered track due to it's dainty music box melody and simmering percussions. Who could forget the hook along the only memorable lyrics "Every single night's a fight, with my brain (bre-hey-yeyeye....eyn)." The colourfully dark video that accompanied the single depicted Fiona in many dream-like sequences as herself feeding an alligator, running on the bridge over a Cloverfield-like atmosphere, being a puppet on a string wearing a Hawaiian grass skirt, like a lunatic with an octopus head-piece or her body swarmed with snails and as a plain wife in bed with a minotaur husband among other roles. The single unexpectedly charted in Japan's Hot 100 at #72 considering it's un-commercial appeal. It never appeared on any other charts as of this time. Anything We Want is the most popular second single choice seemingly though I would go for the sullen love song VALENTINE for it's retentive chorus hook.


click for SONG LYRICS:

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