Fiona Apple’s ‘The Idler Wheel’: Review Revue

Robbie Daw | June 20, 2012 7:55 am

After seven long years, moody pianist Fiona Apple has offered up a new album, her fourth — The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. The title is a mouthful, for sure, and reviewing the LP proved to be an emotional, and sometimes frustrating, experience for some critics. (Though, they’d better enjoy it — at this rate, we’ll all be nearly a decade older before Fiona releases another record!) Head below to catch our roundup of what the Internet at large had to say about Apple’s album.

:: The Los Angeles Times is enthusiastic about Apple’s fourth LP: “Apple’s The Idler Wheel is an exquisitely rendered work, with as many thrilling moments of silence and space as with vocal drama. It’s essential 2012 listening for anyone interested in popular music as art. And like all great albums, it’s an encapsulation of all that has come before it as filtered through a singular aesthetic.”

:: The Washington Post is a bit more subdued about the record: “The Idler Wheel… may be Apple’s best album yet, though it’s the one you’ll least want to hear again. It’s as brilliant as you’d hoped, as surly as a teenager and as temperamental as a thoroughbred. These are acoustic ballads with bared teeth, draped over skeleton frames of piano and oddball percussion. Idler Wheel, made in collaboration with Apple’s percussionist Charley Drayton, is primordial, raw. It gets better every time you hear it.”

:: The Atlantic is simply mad for it: “Fiona Apple’s new album is the kind of record you rave about to everybody and end up sounding kind of out of your mind for doing so. Her first release in seven years, a collection of weird, stripped-down anthems produced by her drummer, has been rattling around in my head for a week now, and every time I’ve talked with someone about it, the conversation has revolved around the word ‘crazy.'”

:: The New York Post is not impressed: “Apple’s fourth album — her first in 7 long years — seems hellbent on repelling the listener at every turn. It’s an itchy, twitchy assault: a manic episode in sound.”

:: Rolling Stone sees both sides of the album: “The Idler Wheel… is a challenging album. The songs are intricately arranged but sonically stark, foregrounding Apple’s piano and the stupendous drumming of Charley Drayton. There’s not a single big, chewy hook on the album. Sometimes the songs drag. The pallid piano ballad ‘Jonathan’ – apparently a mash note to her former beau, the writer Jonathan Ames – would be a trial to sit through if it were two minutes long. It’s five-plus. But Apple’s kooky energy pushes through the slow spots.”

:: The Chicago Tribune-Review gives Idler Wheel a near-perfect score: “Apple’s vocals break and turn with all the haphazard logic of unguarded thoughts, her piano scurrying to keep up or pausing to rain down chords like hammers. Drayton’s array of drums and percussion nick-knacks talk back in spasms and flurries. These songs brim with musical personality, even if the subject matter is often pretty dire.”

:: The Philadelphia Inquirer accepts the album on its own terms: “But while The Idler Wheel never qualifies as easy listening — uneasy listening is more like it — it’s not so much the tale of woe that it first might appear. That’s clear even by the end of ‘Every Single Night,’ in which Apple…alters the chorus the third time so that she’s singing,’Every single night’s alright,’ letting the listener know that, up to a point anyway, she’s actually quite comfortable living with a sense of discomfort.”

:: Finally, Complex notes the following: “At times she sounds fearless and at others, Apple’s quivering voice sounds like it could shred into tiny scraps at any moment. But it doesn’t, and there is a kind of strength in that.”

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