Artist: Fiona Apple
Title: “The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do”
Format: Vinyl (Spotify)
With a penchant for unbearably long album titles and what read as unnecessary, youthful self-confidence, many wrote off Fiona Apple as beautifully flawed for years.
She’s painted herself as damaged goods from the start. The opening line of her first hit single: “I’ve been a bad, bad girl.”
At 19, such honesty felt uncommonly self-aware. At 34, with “The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do,” she’s emerged as a queen of her craft.
Somewhere between 2005’s record-that-almost-never-happened, “Extraordinary Machine,” and 2012’s “Idler Wheel,” Apple became music’s “it-girl,” riding to victory behind critical praise and a sold-out tour.
“Idler Wheel” is the reason. The songs are lean, but complex. She has grown with her style without subverting it. Whereas in the past she would bully the listener with a blunt object to evoke emotion, now she’s learning the art of subtlety, building tension through countermelodies and that voice that always hinted at a quiet pool of rage under the surface.
Her clever wordplay abounds throughout, but startling truths still emerge: “How can I ask anyone to love me when all I do is beg to be left alone?”
If repelling attention is a problem for Apple, she best stop making records this good.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.