Album Review: Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple
Phenomenal, Based on 9 Critics
The Line of Best Fit - 100 Based on rating 10/10
Modern music's original self-isolator, Apple's fifth album in 25 years was recorded mostly at her Venice Beach home, with an inner circle of musicians included Soul Coughing's Sebastian Steinberg, drummer Amy Aileen Wood, Cara Delevingne and five dogs named Mercy, Maddie, Leo, Little, and Alfie. An experience which spans fidelities - the record's style is often as uncomplicated as the album's cover, filled with rhythms which sound like field recordings and lashing of percussion which give the songs unsteady, freewheeling foundations. An obvious reference point is Tom Waits' Swordfishtrombones and perhaps even a little Captain Beefheart, music which sometimes sound like it's about to break apart, filled with chants and stamped feet.
A new Fiona Apple record is like a hangnail pulled to living flesh, like catching two rabbits jousting and leaping on the front lawn — a moment that shoves you, whether through pain or immense joy, back into the rhythms of life that are always pulsing in the ether. Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Apple's towering fifth album, isn't simply a force of nature or work of genius — it's a celebratory reminder that you're alive. For all the shit we've shovelled her way, it's hard to imagine we deserve Apple's music — it's harder still to imagine how she finds the grace to give it to us.
It happens to most of us at an early age: the realization that life will not follow a straight line on the path towards fulfillment. Instead, life spirals. The game is rigged, power corrupts, and society is, in a word, bullshit. Art can expose the lies. The early music of Fiona Apple was so much ….
Fiona Apple has never been the most prolific of artists, but an eight year gap since her last album The Idler Wheel… marks her longest period between releases. Apple remains enough of a big name though to make the release of each record seem like an event – when the release of Fetch The Bolt Cutters was brought forward from its original October release date, it did indeed feel as if the internet was about to be broken. Although Apple is most closely associated with the sort of dark piano pop popularised by the likes of Tori Amos, or Regina Spektor, the first thing that a newcomer would observe about Fetch The Bolt Cutters would be how strange, eerie and just downright weird most of it is.
About a minute into "I Want You to Love Me," the opening cut on her fifth album Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple holds a note a few seconds longer than you'd expect, then a few seconds more. It's the first time Apple veers away from the expected course on Fetch the Bolt Cutters and it's hardly the last, but it's telling that the shift occurs within a song, not in a transition between tracks. Apple spent the years after the 2012 release of The Idler Wheel sculpting the songs and sounds of Fetch the Bolt Cutters, working at her home studio with a band featuring drummer Amy Aileen Wood, bassist Sebastian Steinberg, and multi-instrumentalist David Garza, using their interactions and interplay as a suggestion of where the finished track should head.
The Lowdown: There's going to be a lot of digital ink spilled in the next 24 hours coining Fiona Apple's new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, as a perfectly timed "quarantine LP. " By noon, someone you know will have tweeted: "'Fetch the bolt cutters, I've been in here too long' #same" with the shit-eating, self-assured grin only the promise of fake Internet points will get you. It's an easy parallel to make when an all-but-reclusive artist steps into the spotlight to deliver her first record in eight years, one crammed with frenetic bursts of energy, each arrangement a lightning bug bouncing around its new, glassy prison.
T he re-emergence of Fiona Apple, eight years after her last studio album, is not quite dolphins returning to the waterways of Venice, but an argument at least for the benefits of letting a musician lie fallow. Apple has always been an unhurried artist - there have been just five albums across her 24-year career, but a recent New Yorker profile documented how richly she used that time to replenish and create. The Apple of 2020 is astonishing; as if she has returned to reinvent sound - the rhythms pleasing, but counter, and unusual.
Fiona Apple's fifth album and her first in eight years 'Fetch The Bolt Cutters' has finally arrived, a record lovingly made in her Venice Beach home. This home setting has made for a unique kind of production, where the walls and the contours of the ceiling make for a much more intimate sense of place. The title track has Fiona Apple guide you around this space, her vocals flow in entrancing poetry as you segue from room to room.
F ew records released this spring will feature a dead dog's bones as percussion, and what sounds like a simulated sex act between a singer and a piano. But then, few recording artists are quite like Fiona Apple, a performer whose relatively slim body of work - this is her fifth full-length record - belies her years toiling in the dark heart of the music industry (coming up to 25). Fetch the Bolt Cutters is a strange and exceptional record, even within the context of an uncommon career.