Song of the Day #4,340: ‘Heavy Balloon’ – Fiona Apple

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.

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Song of the Day #4,339: ‘Rack of His’ – Fiona AppleFetc

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.”

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Song of the Day #4,338: ‘Shameika’ – Fiona Apple

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.”

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Song of the Day #4,337: ‘Ladies’ – Fiona Apple

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.

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Song of the Day #4,336: ‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’ – Fiona Apple

Of all the new music that has dropped in the coronavirus era, I’m most excited and entranced by Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters, the singer-songwriter’s first new album since 2012’s The Idler Wheel.

The notoriously reclusive, reluctant genius has released only five albums in 25 years, each of them a very different kind of masterpiece. A new Fiona Apple record is enough of an event that I’m dedicating the rest of the week to this unique gem.

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Song of the Day #4,233: ‘Criminal’ – Fiona Apple

Jennifer Lopez’s introduction in Hustlers was one of the great moments in cinema last year, musical or otherwise. And I promise I say that as a movie fan, not a guy who enjoys watching Lopez work the pole.

By framing this moment through the eyes of Constance Wu’s character, writer/director Lorene Scafaria makes Lopez’s dance not about her sexuality but her power. She is not a sex object… she’s the subject, specifically subjecting her will on the helpless men in the audience. She commands the stage, separating men from their money just as she will later in the movie through more nefarious methods. It’s appropriate that her song of choice is titled ‘Criminal.’

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Song of the Day #4,185: ‘Periphery’ – Fiona Apple

Best Albums of the 2010s – #7
The idler Wheel… – Fiona Apple (2012)

I’ve noted that several artists on this list have had a lean decade, production-wise. Fiona Apple takes first prize in that regard, releasing only one album over the last ten years, 2012’s The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do.

Most people just call it The Idler Wheel.

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