Getting to the core of Fiona Apple

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"The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do," is the latest album by Fiona Apple.

And - that is the last time you will read that title in this column.

Released June 19, Apple explores the deepest cavities of her heart in this psychological study of love and heartbreak.  

The singer-songwriter is touring and will perform 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20 at Caesars Atlantic City with Blake Mills.  

For her first album in seven years, Fiona Apple exhibits poetic songwriting and uses quirky rhythms and effects throughout 10 tracks (11 on the iTunes deluxe edition ).

The reason you're reading about Fiona Apple today is not because this album popped up on my normal radar; nor is it because of tonight's performance in Atlantic City. I asked for requests and I received two on Twitter from @Oh_ThatsHeather and @stefcampolo.

Apple captured my attention on this album with an incredibly driven and poetic opening track, "Every Single Night." It is an odd start to open an album; quiet and unorthodox, Fiona Apple's haunting voice becomes increasingly desperate as the song progresses through verses that wink at Sylvia Plath.

That is to say it was the first song that captured my attention. Fiona Apple's stylized depiction stares out from the cover of "The Idler Wheel…" courtesy of an intricate pen and ink drawing to match its equally dense title.

Almost begging to be judged by its cover, Fiona Apple’s latest is an unabashed celebration of uniqueness. As a guide on this journey, Apple is inviting us into her mind from the very start. “Every single night’s/a fight with my brain,” Apple sings on the opening track. Inside the world Apple has weaved is part "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and part biographical fiction.  

Heavily orchestrated around loose jazz arrangements, Apple's guttural voice pitches and weaves its way around your brain and sticks there. But it is those jazz arrangements that made me want to listen to this album repeatedly.

I can’t equate Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple but I will say they are similar in their utilization of random and sometimes rapid increase and decrease of pitch while singing. Where Apple differs is her ability to make those jumps sound like a dangerous doberman behind a weak wooden fence.  

It’s a heavy album, both in subject matter and tone and also an enjoyable listen. Halfway through the week of listening to it, I went back and re-played “Fevers and Mirrors,” by Bright Eyes.

One of the most surprising tracks is "Left Alone," with the piano-drunk singer drenching the song in honesty with Charley Drayton weaving improvised percussion like a meandering stream in a heavy storm.

Fiona Apple does have a wonderful voice that lends itself to her musical style, especially on the meta-love song "Werewolf" and the nearly whimsical "Periphery."

I highly recommend listening to this album through noise-canceling headphones. When I did that, I really appreciated its production. There is an orchestra of ambient noises that blend into a dull menagerie through a car stereo or on the hi-fi.

For example, “Werewolf,” begins with the creepy opening and closing of a squeaky door before delving into a humorous and insightful song.

This album is one that really needs to be listened to. There is a nuance to Fiona Apple that is easy to misinterpret and thereby under-appreciate. 

On “Valentine,” Apple sings the unobvious rhyme "You didn't see my valentine / I sent it via pantomime." There is a performance here. As a singer-songwriter, Fiona Apple is aware of the allusions to things that are different than they seem.

Every time I listened to this album I seemed to find something different and really enjoyed the discovery. It was like the beginning of a role-playing game where just after you establish your character the experience tests your mettle.

Fiona Apple is challenging her listeners with “The Idler Wheel,” and rewards them with an experience worth repeating. 

Comment on Twitter @DBCurrent and #TheHighNote

Catch this column every Saturday on The Current and Gazette homepage and anytime here The High Note

Below is the very stange video for "Every Single Night."

Listen to it on Spotify


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