December 2, 2012

nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key

Ever since the lush Pacific Northwest green of my July wanderings, I’ve been listening over and over to the new Fiona Apple record, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. I’ve been rolling it around in my head trying to get a handle on it, prodding at it, letting it prod back at me (sometimes fiercely).

What I hear when I listen to this record is a ragged bravery, a loose-knuckled grip on any sort of stability, and a gorgeous musical honesty. It’s a complicated, outstanding record.

Werewolf – Fiona Apple

Fiona wheels and rages and turns her scalpel alternately fiercely in on herself and outward on a lover (who she calls out by name, more than once). It feels much more raw and bloody than previous records, as she continues to push forward with letting classical prettiness go. I think that notion alone deserves a slow clap, in a society that tends to prefer our ladyfolk a bit more decorous and docile.

We have brave record here, in that it feels like an unpolished diary, both in the complicated, personal (sometimes ugly) words and in the intimacy of the sonic arrangements – lots of space in the room, ambient noises, sound effects like screams and hands that patter in a rapid heartbeat. These melodies are intricate and minor and each song seems to hold the seeds of a few dozen others. I think her mind is constantly spiraling, and I get that, and I love it. Fiona and her touring drummer recorded this record together, and presented it complete to Epic executives, who didn’t know she was working on anything. It feels completely un-fucked-with, which is a welcome trait, and the record breathes so hot and close and real to the listener that it almost makes me squirmy.

I find it tremendously freeing the way that Fiona is increasingly unafraid to make bold-faced, unflinching vocal statements on this record, letting her voice go ragged and voracious and not-at-all pretty, like on “Daredevil”: “Wake me up / gimme gimme gimme what you got in your mind / in the middle of the night…” YES. You can hear her ravenous hunger, like a blast of scorching dry wind from her mind and gut. She says exactly what she means with a poet’s acumen and the playfulness of an immense, alliterative vocabulary.

I find this record continually challenging, continually interesting to listen to, and a deeply enjoyable (if wild) sonic ride. I’m in, and I find myself strangely proud of her for making something so tremendous out of all the bloody detritus of struggle.


  • I think the biggest compliment I can provide is that I am jealous. Your prose is getting better and better. Lucid and imaginative. Obviously helps when your writing about what your passionate about.

    Comparisons can sometimes be simplistic, but I really heard Tori Amos in that song. Not just the piano, but how she doesn’t bat at eye pulling you under the covers and sharing everything. Sometimes, uncomfortably so.

    Keep up the good work!!

    jon — December 3, 2012 @ 9:11 am

  • [...] Today’s find: I AM FUEL, YOU ARE FRIENDS. Huge thanks to Hope for posting the link to the Fiona Apple blog post on her Facebook page. My personal favorite is the Chapel Session with Hey Marseilles, a lovely band [...]

    finals ramblings | — December 3, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

  • One of the best albums of the year IMHO. You sum the sometimes uncomfortable energy of it all extremely well.

    Jan — December 5, 2012 @ 9:03 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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