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Fiona Apple Strips Down To Unleash Her Inner World

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 5, 2012 6:00PM

Fiona Apple is known for her raw honesty, often baroque musical arrangements and a propensity for launching paragraph-long album titles onto an unsuspecting public. With The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw & Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do she hews to expectations on two of those elements and throws the other out the window as she strips her music down to its bare elemental components.

When we saw Apple perform recently we were struck by the powerful ferocity contained in even the mot subdued moments of her performance. Her new material follows through in that vein, allowing her elastic vocals to burst with emotion with a vibrancy thrown into stark relief against the percussive layers below. For instance, on "Daredevil" Apple's versus drip with a weariness that slowly builds into a powerful request before exploding into an emotional lyrical section that shows a soul tortured by self-knowledge. All the while minimal brushes against snares are accompanied by brief rhythmic bursts in of clattering drumsticks and the only melody line outside her voice is a simple piano line.

Moments like that abound on The Idler Wheel... and it's only when Apple relies on more traditional fare does the album falter. Take "Jonathan," about a particularly famous ex of hers. It's more a traditional "love gone wrong" tune and while it also employs the minimal percussion and piano of "Daredevil," the vocal line is more traditional and it ends up reading as just another tragic relationship song that misses out on the emotion coursing through the rest of the album.

The Idler Wheel... shows Apple largely eschewing the expected though, giving us another fearless look into one woman's constant search for the answers inside herself. Apple is always in the pursuit to define each layer of her inner map, and while her quest never falters her frustration with the inability to ever find respite is what drives the emotional core of her music. In the end it's a stark and simple proposition that spins out into a world of countless possibilities and The Idler Wheel... is her attempt to capture a snapshot of a single moment of her search.

Fiona Apple plays the Chicago Theatre on July 10.