Continuing the chronological presentation of my 25 favorite songs…
‘Fox in the Snow‘ – Belle and Sebastian (1996)
Belle and Sebastian’s ‘Fox in the Snow’ has shown up every time I’ve done some sort of “desert island discs” feature on this blog, and I wasn’t about to exclude it now that I’m coming up with my definitive list of favorite songs.
As with several songs on this list, ‘Fox in the Snow’ is my favorite song on my favorite album by one of my favorite bands. That status doesn’t apply to about two thirds of this list, but when it does the song in question is usually a key reason that artist became a favorite.
Some albums make for great background music. Some are perfect for dance parties. Some get the whole family singing along on a road trip.
Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters is none of the above. This is an album best listened to alone, headphones on, with the lyrics in front of you. Or, as I’ve discovered over the past couple of weeks, alone, headphones on, while jogging around the neighborhood and keeping a wide berth from potentially infected passers-by.
Fiona Apple is a piano player at heart, but on Fetch the Bolt Cutters she relegates her signature instrument largely to the background. Instead, this song cycle is dominated by percussion.
That percussion comes in the form of traditional drum sets, but also all manner of found objects. Apple recorded the album in her house, and she turned her house into an instrument. She told one interviewer that she came to view the house as a member of the band. On one track, she is credited with playing a “chair.”
Another theme of Fetch the Bolt Cutters is the acknowledgement and overcoming of trauma.
That takes a very dark turn on ‘For Her,’ a song inspired by the Harvey Weinstein scandal and Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing. That song packs four distinct musical movements into its two and a half minute running time and includes the jarring lyric “Well, good morning, good morning, you raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in.”
One of the most interesting and appealing aspects of Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters is its focus on female empowerment.
Whether she’s recounting a dinner party where an ex objected to her outspokenness on ‘Under the Table’ (“Kick me under the table all you want, I won’t shut up”) or finding common ground with another ex’s new girlfriend on ‘Newspaper’ (“I wonder what lies he’s telling you about me to make sure that we’ll never be friends”), these songs are explicitly for and about women.