Tag Archives: The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Top 20 of 2012

Punch Brothers - Who's Feeling Young Now?

1. Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now?
2. Japandroids – Celebration Rock 
3. Tropical Punk – Ends of the World 
4. John K. Samson – Provincial 
5. Flume – Flume
6. Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE 
7. Tame Impala – Lonerism 
8. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…
9. Balmorhea – Stranger
10. The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth
11. Titus Andronicus – Local Business
12. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
13. The Men – Open Your Heart
14. The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter
15. Bob Dylan – Tempest
16. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
17. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
18. Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes
19. St. Lucia – St. Lucia EP
20. Yeasayer – Fragrant World

Honorable Mentions: People Get Ready, Grizzly Bear, Lucero, Black Moth Super Rainbow, The Tallest Man on Earth

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Top 20 of 2012: 8. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…

8. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Fiona Apple - The Idler WheelFiona Apple’s last album Extraordinary Machine is a glaring example of label troubles. After two years of delays and leaked demos, Epic Records finally released it in 2005 — but hey, at least we got two versions of that excellent record. It looks like the label might’ve learned from their mistake, releasing her newest album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, pretty much right after they found out about it.

So if it wasn’t the label’s fault, why has it been seven years before she put out a new album? Apple actually recorded The Idler Wheel… in secret, without the label’s knowledge. She had no pressure in the studio and created the album she wanted to make — an album that might be her best.

The Idler Wheel… doesn’t have the grand arrangements of Extraordinary Machine, but the pared-down music is still her most adventurous. And her lyrics are as sharp as ever — conveying every bit of the incredible emotion held within.

Fiona Apple’s absences are easy to forgive, because her records are always so good.

Fiona Apple at the State Theatre of Ithaca, N.Y.

Fiona Apple - June 19, 2012 - State Theatre - Ithaca, New York - photo by Peter Cauvel

Perhaps I should start with the historic venue, or maybe the 90-degree humid air, or maybe Fiona Apple’s guitarist and bassist who opened the show. Or maybe I should even tell you about the delicious guacamole I had before the June 19 concert at Ithaca, N.Y.’s State Theatre.

But all I can think about is Fiona, who put me under a spell for the entire performance, allowing me to forget all those things until the house lights brightened and the post-show music came on, waking me from a wonder-induced nap.

I expecting a toned-down performance, maybe like the performance she had done the prior day on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. After all, she hasn’t done a full tour in years, so I wasn’t quite sure what kind of show we were going to get.

Thankfully, on stage in Ithaca, she was herself. And her presence echoed that of her recent SXSW performance, which I had reviewed back in April. Apple wore a black tank and a royal purple maxi skirt, which revealed her equally as purple tights when she clutched and tugged at it during a song. At one point, she tied the skirt between her legs, lifting it up into makeshift shorts to cool herself. She wore her hair down at first, fussing with it every chance she got. A front-row audience member stepped up to offer her a hair tie, and Apple happily accepted.

Did I mention it was hot? Oh my goodness, it was hot. And if I was sweating in a light sundress sitting down, I could only imagine how the band felt under the purple and red lights.

The stage crew set out a cool water basin for the singer, which she dumped over her head and mopped up the sweat with a cloth. At some points, I thought she’d faint right into the fan she stood in front of.

Apple started the set with “Fast As You Can” and “On the Bound,” both from sophomore album When the Pawn…, with a vigor coming so surprisingly from her little body. I’d hate to be another person to mention her thinness, but that voice… it was like she was summoning the devil inside. The anger and rumbling emotion that possessed her captivated me. And guess what? I think I started crying.

The show equally featured songs from all of Apple’s records, including The Idler Wheel…, released that day. Although listeners weren’t as familiar with songs like “Werewolf,” “Daredevil” or “Anything We Want,” she performed them with the same strength as “Shadowboxer” or “Sleep To Dream,” tunes she wrote as a teenager. She played piano only a few times but mostly took center stage to belt out her songs.

She ended the show with “Criminal,” the 1996 hit that has traveled well with the now 34-year-old. Despite the heat, she flailed, jumped and convulsed (in a good way) with her songs. She wound up the concert with a cover of Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe.”

 

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Fiona Apple – “Anything We Want”

Fiona Apple The Idler Wheel

A third new song from Fiona Apple! As the June 19 release date for The Idler Wheel… approaches, we get a greater taste for what the album will be. “Anything We Want” delivers optimism in true Fiona Apple fashion. The song is one of my favorites of the new songs performed and recorded at SXSW. Live, Apple totes a copper pipe on stage, hitting and banging it for the song’s intro. In an interview with Pitchfork, she admits the percussion on the album version is her tapping things on her desk. Each tinny hit is panned out perfectly, reaching the left and right ears in rhythm.

“Anything We Want” is a sort of declaration of adulthood and freedom. She sings, “And I kept touching my neck to guide your eyes where I wanted you to kiss me – when we find some time alone.” Despite the maturity of the content, Apple reverts to a grade-schooler:

Let’s pretend we’re eight years old playing hooky
I’ll draw in the wall and you can play UFC rookie
Then we’ll grow up take our clothes off
And you’ll remind me that I wanted you to kiss me
When we find some time alone

Apple says she thinks about being a kid often and has been reading parenting books like Raising Happiness. She doesn’t plan on having children anytime soon, but uses these child-related themes on her album, even with the album’s title: The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do. “I had read about whipping cords in a nautical book that my last boyfriend had. I read that when ropes get frayed at sea, you can repair the frayed ends of the ropes with whipping cords that are very strong. This goes right back to the parenting thing – if I had a kid, and I had a choice between teaching somebody how to avoid trouble, or teaching them how to get out of it, I’d teach them how to get out of it.”

Fiona Apple – “Werewolf”

Fiona Apple Werewolf

Fiona Apple released a second song from her upcoming album, The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do.

“Werewolf” has a wandering melody and her usual wiser-from-the-situation lyrics. Piano chords count in 3/4 time as she sings the waltz. It’s strangely optimistic sounding, sort of like “Better Than Fine (Waltz)” from Extraordinary Machine. While she clearly resents someone, it’s ok to move on, even though it hurt. “Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key” – which is figurative, but also literal because the “Werewolf” ends in A minor.

Apple’s singing style illustrates the change of emotion of the song. She snarls, “The lava of the volcano shot up hot from under the sea.” Then sings sweetly, “One thing leads to another, and you made an island of me.”

The track is mostly piano-laden, except for the door opening and closing at the  beginning and screaming children, whom she recorded near an elementary-school playground (in ripped pants).

Listen to “Werewolf” below. The Idler Wheel is out June 19.

Fiona Apple – “Every Single Night”

Fiona Apple - Every Single Night new single The Idler WheelFiona Apple’s first new song off her upcoming album, 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 studio version of the YouTube clips from her recent SXSW shows.

In the live performance of “Every Single Night,” Fiona clutches the air with her fingers. She closes her eyes and squeezes out all feeling inside her, almost doubling over toward the microphone. To her, singing live is the one moment where she doesn’t have to think about anything. “I’ve had the most wonderful moments of my life after singing… after a song ends, it like you’ve just woken up from a delicious nap and everything looks really bright and clear,” she said in an interview. “… and I’m looking around at my friends that I’m playing with, and they’re really really appreciating what I’ve got. You just feel so much. It feels so good.”

Every Single Night Fiona Apple performing

This idea of clearing the mind on stage is probably the opposite of what Fiona is singing about in “Every Single Night.” In this song, she sings “Every single night, I endure the flight of little whims of white flame, butterflies in my brain. These ideas of mine percolate the mind, trickle down the spine.” The lyrics are delivered confidently, as is her style, but she yearningly sings “I just wanna feel everything,” simply stating her wish.

The instrumentation remains light, so as not to distract from the poem. Slightly dissonant bells begin the song and carry throughout.  Vocals float over the repeating chord changes, but she experiments with percussion during the husky, military-like chorus. Soft fuzz blankets the track.

It should be interesting to see what Fiona does with percussion in the new album, out June 19 on Epic Records. Instead of relying on Jon Brion’s orchestral arrangements, like those on Extraordinary Machine, “Every Single Night” and “Anything We Want” (a new song performed at the Bowery Ballroom) includes more drums, mallet instruments and copper pipe. That’s right, copper pipe.

Enjoy “Every Single Night,” Fiona Apple’s first single since 2005. Lyrics after the break.

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