Posts tagged: singer-songwriter

Andrew Bird – “Orpheo”

By , November 2, 2012 10:00 am

After March’s superb release Break It Yourself, one would have expected Chicago multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird to take it easy on the road for the remainder of the year, enjoying the success of the best album of his career. Instead, he just popped out another album, a so-called “companion piece” to Break It Yourself’s textured folk and fingerpicking goodness. Hands of Glory is more innately country, the rugged, sepia-tinged mirror image of Break It Yourself and one that is as effortlessly authentic as all of Bird’s discography. “Orpheo” is perhaps the best representation of Hands of Glory’s aim, a reworking of Break It Yourself’s majestic “Orpheo Looks Back” to a more rustic, contemplative acoustic shuffle. It’s lovely.

Andrew Bird – “Orpheo”

A Fine Frenzy – Sailingsong

By , October 17, 2012 10:00 am

Alison Sudol aka A Fine Frenzy has changed in her red locks for blonde ones, and with that comes a third album that is far more ambitious than anything the singer-songwriter has ever attempted. Pines is an imposing record, coming in at over an hour and ostensibly an overarching story where each song leads into the other, like “chapter[s] that lead into the next,” as Sudol herself described it. It also comes with a companion book and a short animated film, and although I don’t know how Pines works with those, I can confirm that the album lives up to its grand concept, more contemplative and folky than her previous works. Whether its the strong thematic threads or just a greater focus, Pines is definitely her most engaging work. “Sailingsong” is the catchiest thing here, a welcome up tempo burst that pops up optimistically at the midpoint of the record.

A Fine Frenzy – “Sailingsong”

A.C. Newman – Shut Down the Streets

By , October 16, 2012 10:00 am

A.C. Newman – Shut Down the Streets

Matador 2012

Rating: 7/10

At this point, it’s hard for Carl Newman to defy the expectations automatically placed upon any album bearing his name. There are the two albums with Zumpano, a ‘90s power-pop outfit (see: Sloan, also of the Great White North, who did it better). The five eerily consistent albums with the New Pornographers, a Canadian power-pop “supergroup” who reasonably could only fall under that term if you were a fervent follower of obscure ‘90s indie acts or in tune with mildly popular transplanted alt-country singers. Now, with Shut Down the Streets, three albums of sparkling solo work, releases that tend to weigh heavily on the side of (surprise!) power-pop, while leaning ever so slightly towards the ‘70s singer-songwriter tropes that Newman has long worshipped and bolstered by a seemingly endless bag of hooks and melodies that would make Costello and McCartney proud. It’s perhaps a tragedy of the digital age that for over the course of all these songs Newman has cultivated a distinct identity that, in a different time, may have made him one of a generation’s truly great songsmiths; as it stands now, this consistency has nevertheless marked him as “that guy from the New Pornographers.” He is the straitlaced pop scholar to Dan Bejar’s schizophrenic genre outlaw, the driving engine behind the success of one of indie’s biggest millennial bands but never the kind to pull on any heartstrings, to really stand up and beg to be noticed. Shut Down the Streets is an album that longs to defeat that perception, to go onward into some brave new territory – hell, Newman seems to already be there on the album cover – but it can’t help but keep one foot in the past.

Easy signposts to point to for the album are the much-reported death of his mother and birth of his son, two seismic life events for any person, much less in such close proximity to each other and in the midst of that person recording an album. It’s easy because Newman has never been so heart-on-his-sleeve with his songwriting as he is here, holding forth on grief and newborn love with equal, unusual candor. The gradual triumphant swell that bubbles to the surface in album centerpiece “Strings” is far less deliberate than past major-key jubilations like Get Guilty’s “There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve,” utilizing this album’s wider palette of sounds and instruments to a pronounced, organic effect. With it, the song’s understated chorus of “we’ve been waiting for you” is a heartbreakingly simple depiction of a father’s love rather than a bombastic, orchestrated declaration.

The album has a more bucolic tone than anything in Newman’s past work, a pastoral hue that calls to mind John Wesley Harding-era Bob Dylan and the work of New Pornos associate Neko Case (who is on board for some typically lovely harmonic contributions). Mixing elements of misty blue-eyed folk with his more typical baroque pop arrangements, that Americana edge that Newman has always tended so carefully yet shown so sparingly bears some pleasantly surprising fruit in tracks like “You Could Get Lost Out Here” and the rural jig of “The Troubadour.” Indeed, it’s the tracks that call to mind the past that tend to distract from the album’s overall feel. “Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns” is a prototypical New Pornographers single, right down to that rollicking backbeat, clink-your-PBRs-together chorus and Case’s howling backing vocals, while “There’s Money in New Wave” is just the kind of carefully enunciated twee ballad Newman can’t help but writing at least once an album. At other times, the album’s distinct style detracts from the song’s themselves: the woodwind that skips about merrily introducing “Hostages” is one such example, gone as abruptly as it is introduced until a brief reemergence in the second half, an outsized distraction in an otherwise unremarkable pop-rock tune.

While decidedly uneven and lacking in the sheer number of hooks a regular dose of Newman provides, Shut Down the Streets does have two of the best songs of his long career in opener “I’m Not Talking” and closer “They Should Have Shut Down the Streets.” The former is a master class in songwriting, something that sounds like it was lifted wholesale from some glen in the ‘60s, and the subtle percussion and even the damn woodwind build to something truly magical, that affecting assurance, “No, I’ve never been close, but I’ve never been far away.” The latter is a slow burning recollection of his mother’s death, as quiet and contemplative as “I’m Not Talking” is soaring and rhapsodic. Both are fundamentally melancholy but at opposite ends of the spectrum in tone and the feelings they engender. With two bookends like these, it’s perhaps too easy to write off everything in between as not up to snuff, and while that may be unfair, it’s also inevitable – it’s these scattered moments of brilliance that make everything else seem so inconsequential. Shut Down the Streets is no doubt a flawed record, but the more I listen to it the more I see not just A.C. Newman the preternaturally gifted power-pop auteur in its failures and its successes but also Carl Newman the person, more relatable than he has ever been before.

A.C. Newman may best be known as the leader of The New Pornographers, but he has also made much-loved solo albums. These show a more personal and intimate side to Carl's songwriting, and on Shut Down The Streets, recorded in Woodstock in Upstate New York, he is joined by longtime colleague Neko Case to make one of his most gorgeous, wide-ranging records yet.
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Earlimart – U&Me

By , October 15, 2012 10:00 am

Blissed out indie pop duo Earlimart release their seventh album tomorrow. Entitled System Preferences, the record continues down the slow burning path that 2008′s Hymn & Her laid out. With Ariana Murray’s vocals now firmly entrenched alongside founder and Elliott Smith-worshipper Aaron EspinozaSystem Preferences is a meticulously produced collection of midtempo singer-songwriter pop, with a focus on gorgeous melodic inflections and haunting lyrics than any captivating hooks. Opener “U&Me” is a fine example, never rising above more than a druggy mist but percolating together pleasantly enough in that hazy guitar and piano motif near the end. Music easy to get lost in.

Earlimart – “U&Me”

A.C. Newman – Strings

By , October 9, 2012 10:00 am

My favorite ginger is releasing his third solo album today, entitled Shut Down the Streets on Matador Records. A.C. Newman has always been the driving force behind the New Pornographers‘, the more straitlaced pop scholar to Dan Bejar’s crazy, off-kilter firebrand, and his solo work has always polished those pop instincts, oftentimes more contemplative and bucolic than his work with the New Pornos. Shut Down the Streets is probably his most mellow work yet, working in a wider palette of sounds and instruments than usual and keeping things at a steady, pastoral midtempo for much of the record. “Strings” is a perfect example, weaving slowly up through that plucked melody and booming percussion and some always welcome harmonies from fellow New Porno Neko Case, all accompanying a melody that keeps rising to a fulfilling, horn-drenched apex.

A.C. Newman – “Strings”

Ben Gibbard – Bigger Than Love

By , October 4, 2012 10:00 am

So, the long-awaited breakup album came not via a new Death Cab for Cutie but frontman Ben Gibbard’s first proper solo album. Death Cab’s 2011 release Codes and Keys waffled around atmospheric synths and songs that preferred to stretch out rather than get to the point. Gibbard’s new record, Former Lives, is a much more simple affair, rooted in a holy trinity of guitar, piano, and Gibbard’s preternaturally lovely voice. It’s all the better for it, allowing the music to center around the classic melodies and the lyrics (always Gibbard’s strongest talent). The underrated Aimee Mann joins in on “Bigger Than Love,” the album’s surging centerpiece.

Ben Gibbard – “Bigger Than Love”

Taken By Trees – Highest High

By , September 20, 2012 10:00 am

From east to west – Swedish songwriter Victoria Bergsman aka Taken By Trees has had a hankering for international travels the past few years which resulted in 2009′s lovely, underrated East of Eden. That enchanting album took Eastern music (particularly Pakistani) and welded it to Bergsman’s twee, melodically airtight indie-pop. New album (and third under this moniker) Other Worlds continues the trend, this time inspired from Bergsman’s trip to Hawaii. The album is more clearly in the pop arena than East of Eden was; Bergsman’s talents as seen with Peter Bjorn & John and her time as frontwoman of the Concretes have clearly not deserted her. The island elements are omnipresent, though, although here it is less directly implicated in the instruments and tones than East of Eden. As the album’s press release says, it’s less a representation of the state’s music and more an evocation of “sandy toes, hidden waterfalls, the dreams you have after a long day at the beach.” “Highest High” is a good taste of what you’re going to get from Other Worlds, and it sounds about right.

Taken By Trees – “Highest High”

Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t

By , September 12, 2012 10:00 am

Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t

Secretly Canadian 2012

Rating: 8/10

I’m probably not quite with it to give Jens Lekman his dues, and for that I thank you, future run-ins with spellchecker, but anyway: of love songs, Lekman pointed I Know What Love Isn’t to break-ups, and speaking to Pitchfork claimed that a record centred around one is made by accepting, hand in hand with its listener, the pain of it all. Up until now, this is hardly the man we’ve known; the You’re So Silent Jens laughed, played maudlin piano trilogies about Rocky Dennis, and then dedicated retro dance songs to himself; the love-song aspect was there, but driving backseat to the witticisms and showy moments. Until now, Lekman has been the perfect performer and the ideal entertainer, to the point where he even pronounced “father” as “fadduh,” as if he was bringing up Camp Granada’s easy-humour on the indie spectrum. What makes I Know What Love Isn’t feel different is that the laughs reveal the romantic twangs a little after, like the joke that dies out to sad sighs; instead of standing by his Stephin Merritt, eye-rolling shtick, Lekman has made an album of sad love prophecies, focusing on the story of two people rather than the remarks of one. “The World Moves On,” his six minute dance anthem- given all its fun rock conventions- isn’t all that fun when you realise it’s genuinely about the world moving on.

What strikes boldest, then, is that there’s nothing particularly weird about Lekman’s music when it’s at its sincerest; these songs are those of a storyteller truly documenting, as well as he can, what has happened; “I Know What Love Isn’t,” the fullest, most conventional Lekman song to date, is based on his experiences of almost proposing to his friend for citizenship and completely non-romantic ideals. And it sums up exactly what I Know What Love Isn’t- I’m talking album, here- amounts to; the serious perspective of Lekman channelled, as per usual, through funny conversations (“do you wanna go see a band? / no I hate bands, it’s always full of men spooning their girlfriends?”) and musical arrangements that sound as funny. Here comes the flute solo! And so Lekman continues to borrow from his own long tradition- that it’s easy to laugh a problem off- but on what he considers to be his first real “album,” he also decides to examine it.

I Know What Love Isn’t is focused on what’s quixotic in the process of elimination- what makes Lekman tick, at this point, is writing big, romantic arrangements and having lines that demarcate: “let’s get married for the citizenship / I’ve always liked the idea of a relationship that doesn’t lie about it’s intentions,” he sings on the title track while it flourishes- the bravado of guitar smacking around verses and choruses, the violin swells and, yes, the flute solos, all celebrating little more than Lekman’s rational peace of mind. Or maybe I Know What Love Isn’t mourns the death of Jens Lekman the romanticist? Apparently, it’s the exact same guy, but using the same tools- marriage, violin swells- as sombre facts of life.

The album is the result of its own thought process, and ultimately becomes the most revealing thing Lekman has written, even if it is his most succinct record. Lines seem less about the big laugh, even in similar arrangements- “Erica America,” for instance, feels sad more than anything, and so a quiet line like “Sinatra had his shit figured out, I guess” is genuinely a quiet line. That’s something- I Know What Love Isn’t doesn’t try to be funny, because at times it really isn’t (a line from the same song: “Erica America, I wish I’d never met you / like I wish I’d never tasted this cheap wine”), and because, ultimately, the album isn’t constructed that way. Lekman isn’t necessarily an entertainer here: he’s a man of music blooming in corners, with the littlest of piano performances on “Become Someone Else’s” or an honest-to-god singer-songwriter acoustic song elsewhere on “I Want a Pair of Cowboy’s Boots.” You can say what you want- it’s the same old Lekman, but only ten songs- but I know different.

And ultimately, a lot of I Know What Love Isn’t is flawed. “The End Of The World is Bigger Than Love” can be dull, and a slight feint at that; it suggests that the end of the world even factors in to Lekman’s mind on album entirely dedicated to love and the loss of love. “Some Dandruff On Your Shoulder” is a conversation first and a song later, so dedicated is it to Lekman’s newfound love of craft. But there’s something in this clunky, structural record that suggests a musician uncaring of where his career peak was or what even defines him anymore. At some point, there’s a musician writing what he believes to be an honest, appropriate break-up album. One that sticks with you quite morosely, that doesn’t look for the upside, particularly, but doesn’t shy away from the serious hilarity of the woman who doesn’t want to be with you but doesn’t actually have anyone else in mind. By peeling away all of love’s non-events, I Know What Love Isn’t is a tragicomedy, not particularly in one mind about what it is, but knowing it’s sort of awful. And so I’m probably in no state to understand Lekman’s album, and probably in the perfect state to overrate it, but as a conventional rock record, and an attempt at the immaculate indie Lekman has been striving to make, this feels right for him: finally, a record he made even in sad and happy. Sinatra may have had his shit worked out, but Jens doesn’t. Or, maybe that, again, is the point. He does, and it turns out his shit isn’t at all romantic.

The album came out of a break up which isn't a new story. He fell in love and it didn't work out. It borrows sparingly from the vast and colorful palette of sounds he created on Kortedala. I Know What Love Isn't has strings but not a string section, an upright piano not grand, a single saxophone, gracenotes from a flute, a lot of tambourine. Combined in exact proportions with Lekman's melancholy abstract lyrics, the songs evoke the classic sound of the Brill Building in it's heyday.
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Cat Power – Sun

By , August 28, 2012 10:00 am

Cat Power – Sun

Matador Records 2012

Rating: 8/10

One listen to Sun and you’d never know that here is an album that almost didn’t get made. “Bitchin’, complainin,’ when some people who ain’t got shit to eat / bitchin,’ moanin,’ so many people you know they got,” goes the lead-in to the chorus on first single “Ruin,” and that, of course, sounds just like Chan Marshall, but certainly not in this context. The sound is lush, a Glass-ian keyboard motif circling up around that ricocheting guitar line and a propulsive funk rhythm suitable to get lost in. “Cherokee,” too, reveling in some haunting electronic textures and that wonderful “whumpf” sound that accompanies Marshall’s pained entreaties to “bury me, marry me to the sky.” It’s unlike anything Cat Power has put to record in her long career, which has been as bleak as it has been impressive over twenty years. What Sun does resemble, however, should be welcome news to any fans of her work: a new beginning.

Marshall’s last album of original material, 2006’s The Greatest, was the perfect snapshot, a painstakingly rendered mosaic of ‘60s soul, gospel, and delta blues, mired in the sepia-toned pop of her Memphis childhood home. “Home” being a relevant term, of course; Marshall’s father was a traveling blues musician who moved his daughter all around the South with him. It’s something that permeates Marshall’s work even here, where traditional sing-a-long “3,6,9” tackles that old blues trope, the monkey on your back, in four quick, painful minutes. That monkey nearly derailed Marshall’s career after The Greatest, leading to hospitalization and bankruptcy, and it’s that long road back that Sun so succinctly details. Where The Greatest seemed as grief-stricken and world-weary as its influences, Sun is remarkably uptempo, utilizing her new affinity for electronic beats and bubbling atmospherics to great effect. Marshall has said in interviews that recording and producing the album almost entirely by herself helped her get away from the second guessing and encouraged her to try new things, the synthesizer in particular. It fits nicely with Marshall’s smoky, soulful voice, and her lyrics, which zip hopefully from the melancholy Native American imagery in opener “Cherokee” to climax “Nothin But Time.” Bloated as it is at nearly eleven minutes long and even featuring the patron saint of self-destruction, Iggy Pop, it never fails to soar, taking the record’s theme of inner peace to its logical, ringing conclusion.

Perhaps it took a while for Marshall to find herself, but Sun is unerringly confident in its adventuring, even when it stumbles. “Peace and Love,” with Marshall in venomous confrontation mode, seems out of place after the triumphant “Nothin But Time,” and “Real Life” never develops much of a hook beyond its warped production. Yet Sun remains, beyond a mere reaffirmation of Marshall’s renewed mental outlook, a fine endorsement of Cat Power’s often overlooked prowess as a songwriter and producer, embellishing the contours of each individual track while strengthening her own voice. “Manhattan” places the onus solely on Marshall’s lovely vocals, painting a desolate picture of New York City over a spartan beat and some jittery drum fills, while “Always On My Own’s” multi-tracked fog is appropriately eerie. Throughout it all, Marshall seems more intrepid than she has been in over a decade and in turn more inspired, without sacrificing any of that emotional immediacy she has been known for. It’s been a long road back, but Sun is a rewarding return to a new Cat Power, one who seems more at ease with her music and herself than ever before. The greatest reward, though, will be seeing where she goes from here.

Sun is the 2012 studio album from Cat Power. Six years after her last album of original material, Chan Marshall has moved on from her collaborative forays into Memphis soul and Delta blues. She wrote, played, recorded and produced the entirety of Sun by herself, a statement of complete control that is echoed in the songs' themes. The narrative arc of the record is deeply American in its spaciousness and optimism, but the music itself is defiantly modern and global.
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Cat Power – 3,6,9

By , August 20, 2012 10:00 am

Her first album in six years and her ninth overall, Sun is quite the comeback for Chan Marshall aka Cat Power, who has nearly had her career derailed multiple times by relationship and alcohol problems but has been on a bit of an artistic high since 2006′s The Greatest. That’s not to say that Sun came easily, as Marshall’s bankruptcy and recording difficulties contributed to the long wait for the album, which finally arrives on Matador on September 4th. It has some lovely production values and some of the most fully realized songs of Marshall’s career in songs like lead-off “Cherokee” with its druggy beat and the epic “Nothin But Time.” “3,6,9″ is one of the more straightforward songs on the record, with a poppier bent and a chorus that refuses to leave your head, even as it delves right into Marshall’s well-chronicled struggles with alcohol.

Cat Power – “3,6,9″

Future of What – Back to the City

By , July 10, 2012 10:00 am

Led by wispy vocalist Blair Gimma (whose had her own share of solo success in the past), Brooklyn buzz band Future of What’s Facebook page defiantly throws aside the “electro-pop” moniker, claiming that they write “songs with a capital S.” I’m not sure when electro-pop became a genre tag to be avoided like the plague, but if “Back to the City” definitely fits within the parameters. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing; Gimma’s voice adds an airy dimension to the stark synths and gentle, space-age chord changes, and it seems like the band environment has worked well for Gimma. The group’s debut EP, Moonstruck, is available for free on their Bandcamp.

Future of What – “Back to the City”

Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…

By , July 3, 2012 10:00 am

Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…

Epic 2012

Rating: 9/10

Idler wheel (noun): 1. A wheel, gear, or roller used to transfer motion or to guide or support something.

Fiona Apple doesn’t so much write albums as she does give birth to them, expunging the songs out of herself in a sea of self-flagellation, venom and red, red, red. The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do was a tougher germination than most, coming seven years off of the studio fiasco that produced the strangely ebullient, jazzy Extraordinary Machine, and it shows – nothing on this record comes easy.  Apple spends years and years keeping to herself, performing one-off shows at her favorite intimate venues, and her claims that she gets what feels like the flu every time she leaves her home and that she doesn’t know how to drive are the very definition of the Artist Recluse. The songs here don’t sound like the result of any pre-production planning, of careful songwriting and the common mark of a pen and the irritating rub of an eraser. No, these songs pour out of the speakers like a wave, unrepentantly raw and crushingly determined.  I have a tough time analyzing The Idler Wheel as a result; as more than anything else Apple has done, it sounds like her truest work, the very definition of one’s innermost thoughts spooling out into the air. In an illuminating interview with Pitchfork, Apple described her music as “the stuff that I really needed to get out, [the] excrement of my life, the excrement I was trying to exorcise out of me.” Shut the doors, stop the presses: this is The Idler Wheel in a nutshell.

“I don’t cry when I’m sad anymore.”

It comes at you fast, from the opening verses of “Every Single Night,” that throaty, full-bodied voice that sounds so uniquely, wonderfully Fiona. There’s the gentle brush of a drumstick, the background tinkle of a piano, the softest bump of percussion, but Apple’s voice is the centerpiece, starting off in quiet anguish: “Every single night I endure the flight / of little whims of white flame / butterflies in my brain.” Then her voice arcs up into that potent roar in the chorus, unadorned and all the more majestic for it. This is the template of The Idler Wheel: Apple’s voice, front and center, taking stock of all her pains, her insecurities, the ugly moments that make up far too much or her life and everyone else’s. The album is ruthless in its unflinching look at Apple, stripped and bare of protection or any sort of emotional wall. “Left Alone” details her inability to coexist with the guy who was right for her all along: “Oh God what a good guy / and I can’t even enjoy him / ‘cuz I’m hard, too hard to know.” Ever the centerpiece, her vocals fluctuate with her emotions, rending the speakers with a desperate howl when she reaches the denouement of “Left Alone,” punctuating each word with a vindictive bit of imaginative spit on the deceptively lovely “Periphery,” and bouncing lightly to and fro on the a capella show-off “Hot Knife.” It’s a visceral performance, one that seems to reach a jagged emotional high on the vicious torch song “Regret” but never truly peaks in any one song, instead twisting and turning around Apple’s swirling moods and piercing lyrics to fit the tone of each. It’s exhausting, to be sure, but it’s also liberating, being able to peer into the psyche of an artist and having her stare back at you, uncompromising and courageous and standing on her own. “I don’t wanna talk about anything,” Apple sings on “Jonathan;” I do think the lady doth protest too much.

Whip (verb): 1. To whip the end of a line is to lace it tight with light line (whipping twine) so it won’t unravel.

Accompanied only by her trusty piano and bandmate Charley Drayton’s superb percussion work, Apple is simultaneously at her loosest and most focused, unburdened by the flashy production that marked Extraordinary Machine. There’s nothing elaborate here or bejeweled besides that ever-shifting voice, and Drayton’s work is note-perfect; a soft thwump there, a gravelly shuffle here, all barely rising above the level of a tap. Indeed, many of the arrangements fall just short of skeletal, a harmonic shading or the occasional multi-tracked rhythm, but in its unfettered, jazzy inflections much of The Idler Wheel comes off as the perfect lounge record: we are sitting here, a dark room with wooden floors and liquor stains, watching Apple perform under the bright lights, the haze of cigarette smoke doing nothing to obscure that voice. It forces the songwriting to shine through, whether it comes immediately like the hook on “Periphery” or whether it surges to the surface after percolating a bit as “Werewolf” or “Every Single Night” do. But there are no pithy singles here and nothing that arrives with an easy promotional angle, Apple finally pulling off the blatantly anti-commercial promise she has hinted at ever since her sly, subversive “Criminal” video aired fifteen years ago. Instead, there’s a vigorous determination and a terrifying dexterity, in both the album’s free-flowing style and in Apple’s own vocal cunning. She is fully untethered, not having to answer to the whims of a record company or the desires of a producer, and as a result The Idler Wheel never has to stop to wonder what it’s all about.

“Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key.”

Apple’s greatest gift has always been going to the darkest part of herself, the heartache and jealousy and self-loathing and rage, the same parts that everyone grapples with daily, and staring it right in the eye, giving no quarter to it as she belts it all out. It’s a refreshingly candid quality and one that makes Apple, for all her inhumanly agile vocals and odd idiosyncrasies, one of the most relatable singer-songwriters of her generation. More so than any of her previous albums, The Idler Wheel, with its spartan production, shines an uncomfortable light on all those uneasy insecurities, everything messy and tense about the human condition. Yet there Apple is, at the forefront of every song, opening by expelling the ideas that split her skull on “Every Single Night” and finishing as the confident man-eater of “Hot Knife.” She has never sounded as good, as irascible yet as in control as she does here. It’s compelling vocal drama, told through the twists and turns of her voice and the softly pervasive arrangements, and Apple is crystal clear in her protestations and so, so easy to empathize with. To bare your soul to an audience starved for seven years for your work, to go about it as tenaciously and unshrinking from all expectations and to succeed, as Apple unequivocally does here, in getting that audience to feel what she is feeling, or at least to be a part of it all for a little; The Idler Wheel is an emotional thesis that cannot be ignored. It is perhaps the most unforgettable work of her career.

Fiona Apple made her debut at age 19 with 1996's Tidal, which is certified triple Platinum. Rolling Stone named her Artist of the Year in 1997 and in 1998 she won a GRAMMY for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for one of the album's singles, Criminal. When the Pawn...followed in 1999, and was hailed by Entertainment Weekly as the work of an original. In early 2005, fans organized a massive Free Fiona letter-writing campaign, insisting that her label release the long-delayed follow-up album, Extraordinary Machine. Released in the fall of 2005, Extraordinary Machine was named the top album of the year by The New York Times, which called it magnificent, and was awarded four stars by Rolling Stone, which praised it as her strongest and most detailed batch of songs yet. Five years later, Extraordinary Machine earned a spot on Rolling Stone's 100 Best Albums of the 00s list, underscoring how her work continues to resonate powerfully.
Fiona's first album since 2005, The Idler Wheel, is a 2012 Grammy Nominee for Alternative Album of the year. She has received countless accolades taking over Top 10 album lists from such credible sources as Time Magazine, New York Times, Pitchfork, Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, Stereogum and more.
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