Customer Reviews: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
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on June 20, 2012
Of all the brilliant, talented female musicians of the 90s - Fiona Apple would not have been the one I'd picked to artistically reign supreme in 2012. But Idler is a masterful LP and Fiona effortlessly takes the crown.

I've watched and wept as Tori Amos has gutted her feminism by desperately clinging to her plastic surgery enhanced dolled up closeups. I've held my forehead in shame as Bjork recorded an album on her freaking I-phone, so out of touch she believes embracing elitist technology will keep her vibrant. And I've fallen asleep listening to Ani Difranco sing her ode to Occupy Wall Street.

So ya know, really, if I hadn't suffered a romantic disappointment the very same week Fiona Apple (Unidisputed Goddess of the Break-Up Album) released her first album in 7 years, I don't really think I would have had the heart to download this after all the disappointment that's come lately from my posse of favorite females of the 90s

Well, Gawd bless relationships that end in disappointment and Fiona Apple for documenting the misery that follows them in all its glory. If you've made it into your 30s, or 40s, perhaps even 50s divorced, never married, or not-otherwise-specified alone, ask yourself this question: Who exactly is singing our song? The formerly mentioned ladies are all confronting wedded bliss (and I wish them all the world's happiness) while the rest of us are marching on, facing the world alone, without a back up choir.

This release is enchanting. I found myself tapping my foot, nodding my head, and singing along. Fiona has matured - This album is complete from start to finish. It is a complete work of art, spilling over the edge with creative juice - no room for filler tracks or incomplete thoughts. This is developed, mature, and different than anything else she's put out so far. Yet, it's a natural evolution from where she started. For a seven year absence, there is no anxiety here. Fiona is calm, calculated and serene.

"I can love the same man in the same bed in the same city
But not in the same room, it's a pity, but
Oh, it never bothered me before
Not 'til this guy, what a guy, oh God what a good guy
And I can't even enjoy him

And now I'm hard, too hard to know
I don't cry when I'm sad anymore, no no
Tears calcify in my tummy
Fears coincide with the tow

How can I ask anyone to love me
When all I do is beg to be left alone? "

Her skill as pianist is formidable and she finally steps into her own as a competent musical rival to all of her contemporaries. She bends her piano to her will and holds it spellbound. Fiona's strong Jazz roots give this album a distinguished flair you won't find anywhere else in the last or the next decade. She is heart-broken, yet absolutely her own, a complete, and fulfilled human being who can't help but keep rockin' on. Taking the road less traveled has left Fiona to fine tune and craft a passion that her contemporaries traded in for settled stability - This album is riddled with bipolar angst that refuses rest or regret and therefore stays vital, restless and alive.

Her trademarked confessional passion is here, but it is no longer a young woman's passion; honest and inspired, Fiona's talent has ripened, and it is so bitter-sweet it will leave you salivating and craving more with spit dripping down your chin.

Pure Excellence - Highly recommended!
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on June 19, 2012
Short Review:
For fans EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE's darker side (perhaps more so of the leaked Jon Brion mixes), Fiona Apple's newest release will not disappoint. It continues the strange, creative journey that Apple started in the 90's but offers unexpected twists and turns. It may not be pretty, but it is sincerely and beautifully crafted. This album is one of the best of 2012.

Long Review:
Fiona Apple's instrumentation has always been minimal, usually consisting of pianos, bass guitars, drumkits, and a few other accompanying session players. This album however, feels bare-bones. While critics of EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE point to the album's production interfering with Apple's original intention, THE IDLER WHEEL.... feels like an open response to it. It feels like everything unnecessary has been stripped back until the only thing left is raw emotion and artistic intuition. Compare this with EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE, an album that sounded slick, polished, and glossy. This album isn't always pretty, but it sure is powerful. While she's never been known for her shyness, THE IDLER WHEEL... feels like her most confident and sure-handed album to date.

THE IDLER WHEEL.... (42:39) opens with the lead single "Every Single Night." This song, much like EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE's opener, feels like a mission-statement of sorts. "Every Single Night" sets the mood for the album. It's tribal, primal, minimalist, and dark. In the lyrics, Apple describes her creative process being a source of pain, uneasiness, and insecurity. "Valentine" is a dark and seductive love (or out-of-love) song, complimented by low strings -- there's a sense of urgency in this song (as well as others) that makes what feels like an accessible song into an uncomfortable squirm. "Regret" is dischordant and atonal at times; Apple unexpectedly turns to yell a guttural rasp in the chorus. THE IDLER WHEEL is full of these moments; the songwriting never feels sloppy however, her anger manifests itself starkly in these shifts away from convention. Most of the songs here are minimalistic; often, songs consist of only vocals, a piano, and jazz drumming. This stripped down approach makes THE IDLER WHEEL feel even more personal than previous Apple records. The album ends with "Hot Knife," a song that defies any easy genre. Mostly an acapella arrangement, it's catchy, bizarre, and sexy -- it wraps up the spectacular album on a note that is both completely unexpected and completely necessary.

You can currently find this album available for streaming in its entirety on NPR's "First Listen" section. Fans of Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, Patti Smith, or Regina Spektor will find a lot here to love. Recommended tracks to sample: "Every Single Night," "Hot Knife," "Jonathon," and "Valentine." These tracks will give listeners a good idea of what to expect from THE IDLER WHEEL. For an album that's been in the making/shelved for 7-years, it feels remarkably fresh - this is one of the best albums of 2012.

This album also comes with a Deluxe Edition. The Deluxe Edition of THE IDLER WHEEL ( The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Deluxe Version) ) comes with the album, an additional DVD of 5 live videos from South by Southwest (only two of these songs appear on the album), a poster of the album, and a small book with lyrics and doodles from Apple. The current price of all of this is only $4 more than the standard edition and is recommended for longtime fans of Fiona Apple.
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VINE VOICEon June 19, 2012
Put this record on and trust yourself in the hands of a master songwriter, one of the most self assured singers, and one of the most amazing creative talents currently putting out music. Fiona is never one to rush things, and that is fine with me if every record is as fine as this one--her voice is varies from gentle, flexible, supple melodicism to sweet and plaintive to whipcord tough soul, sometimes in a moment that stretches longer than the second it takes to sing. She is strong, she is in control, and she is here to show you that she is only getting better at what she does.

"Every Single Night" starts out quietly, with a vibraphone/toy piano sound, joined by an acoustic base; she starts softly, soon becomes demanding: "That's when the pain comes in...Like a second skeleton/Trying to fit beneath the skin/I can't fit the feelings in/Every single night's alright with my brain." There are not words at my disposal to describe the emotional changes that this song brings you through, but it had my mouth open in disbelief, it was so powerful.

"Werewolf" is another standout track, starting with "I could liken you to a werewolf the way you left me for dead...But I admit that I provided a full moon..." set to a chiming piano. This dichotomy, this my fault/your fault push and pull is something that she excels at, and this song is no exception, and it is developed into a description of an obsessive relationship, full of pain but full of fire: "We are like a wishing well and a bolt of electricity/ But we can still support each other, all we gotta do's avoid each other/Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key."

"If I'm butter, then he's a hot knife, He makes my heart a cinemascope..." she croons to an insistent tom tom beat on "Hot Knife" and soon a dark dancing piano figure comes in, and Fiona, tight and controlled begins harmonizing with her sister, twisting in and out of each other's melodies, forming a complex web of sound that is still focused and sharp. It is an astonishing achievement that she pulls off with laser like focus, and her sister's voice is not only a fantastic counterpoint to her own, but is hauntingly similar.

This may be Fiona's finest album, but will not please everyone. None of these songs are probably going to blaze up the top 40--but they should. None of these songs will give you peace, leave you alone, let you rest. They will infect your consciousness with their insistent beat, their multi-layered meanings, and their incredible vision. This is a mature album from an artist who is simply satisfied only when she has put out greatness. Strongly recommended.
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on July 3, 2012
I just want to reiterate what others are saying. I am a huge Fiona fan, loved all of her previous work. There is no other songwriter that understands relationships better and is better at expressing it. The lyrics, excellent keyboard playing and just her voice - she is a genius.

That being said, I really didn't like this CD at first. I was hugely disappointed. But...........I kept listening. Around the 7th listen it hit me how truly great this CD is. Love Anything We Want, Hot Knife and Every Single Night. Love when Fiona sings "That's where the pain comes in" in Every Single Night. She belts it. What a talent.

I was at the show in NYC at Roseland Ballroom in '99 where she had the breakdown - a huge disappointment for me. I have not been able to see her since. I really appreciated the DVD that came with the deluxe edition.

Please listen again if you were turned off. You will change your mind. I promise.
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on June 22, 2013
Great album! I don't think it's such a sad, depressing-sounding album as some people say. I think it's full of great insights and it offers a fresh, new perspective on heartbreak. My favorite line off the album:

"Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key."

I don't see Fiona as being completely miserable; I see a strong woman who has found ways to cope with all the sadness in her life. "It pisses me off to think that we're conditioned to push away bad feelings and to think that anything that's uncomfortable is something to be avoided. When things are really bad nowadays, I recognize the value in it because it's me filling my quota-- it's going to make my joy more intense later." - Fiona

The album can sound a bit off at times - she doesn't try to make things sound all pretty. But that's exactly why I love this album. It's unapologetic and raw, and that's what makes this a beautiful album.
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on May 9, 2013
This album is one of the few-ever perfect marriages of sophisticatedly profound poetics with virtuosic musical composition and performance. Even in trying to sum it up in one sentence, I trip over my own words like an idiot who can't pronounce the words he's using. I myself sprang for the "deluxe" edition with the comosition book of Ms. Apple's lyrics and sketches (plus the live-performance DVD). With or without it, this album is an overwhelming aesathetic experience, because of and in honor of which one might be disinclined to pay for or pay attention to any other music for a year's time. I can't even go into the details of the songs themselves - Ms. Apple's lyrics, piano playing and vocal delivery all close in on the songs like fingers into a fist, for each selection. I've read others' attempts to aptly describe or appropriately quote the songs on this album, and I find that almost everyone fails to approximate a listener's experience of the songs. Indeed, these songs aren't to be merely listened-to, but experienced by the listener; that this entire album is a comprehensive experience itself, making cherry-picking the selections which one can more comfortably digest seem a desecration of the entire work. Fiona Apple is as amazing as she is humble about it. A lot of musicians should follow her example on both counts.
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on July 2, 2012
First off, don't listen to the nay-sayers or the people who listened to the album one time and realized within minutes it wasn't the exact record they hoped Fiona would make for them. This isn't a work designed for the "instant-gratification" mindset. It's almost laughable to me to hear complaints about production. This record is actually very proper in it's production. I got as much $ in my system as many have in their cars and I can assure you this is a very dynamic recording. Her voice isn't buried in the backdrop like it was in the over-compressed "Extraordinary Machine". She is literally sitting in my living room. Her voice and piano alone could carry an album, and in this record it's almost down to those two...and it works beautifully.

This is not an over-compressed, over-produced cookie-cutter record to appease the simple-minded masses. This is a work of art straight from Fiona's heart. It's disappointing to hear self proclaimed fans who haven't the patience to give a record more than one spin, but will instead jump to snap judgement...and then proceed to try to rain on potential buyer's parades.

Upon my first listen or two, I knew this was different from previous releases. I gave it a spin a day. It really hit me that this is Fiona pouring her emotions out like never before. She is really letting loose and her voice sounds better than ever. The writing and creativity is superb. Im not going to go into a song by song breakdown. That is for the fan to experience on their own. I'm here to say that this is some of the most passionate, emotional work I have heard from this lovely woman...but it takes a little time to learn. Once you do, it is her really letting her inner self right out there, a very intimate record. She has grown by leaps and bounds and this album is a step forward.

Please enjoy...and thank you Fiona!
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on July 10, 2012
I have not been able to get this album out of my ears since I bought it. It begins quietly and catches you immediately. I'm recommending it to everyone I speak to about music. Apple goes from soft to hard and everywhere in between with marvelous fluidity. Everyone who loves music should hear this album.
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on June 28, 2012
I've always loved Fiona's soulful voice and poetic lyrics. I wasn't ecstatic about her last album, Extraordinary Machine, but this one is a major comeback. It took me about 3 listens through the album to truly appreciate it. This is not an album that lends itself to pop radio hits, but it is beautiful music that you feel through your whole body. I'm very partial to the sexy, energetic "Hot Knife", the seductive "Anything We Want", and the sweet love song that is "Jonathon". As always, her lyrics are poetry coming from the raw emotion of a flawed woman who desperately wants to be loved but sees herself as undeserving. The unique aspect of this album is the interesting percussive backgrounds to all the songs. Beautiful album and one that I will enjoy over and over again.
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on June 19, 2012
I first heard of Fiona apple back in 2005 when her album Extraordinary Machine came out, I was simply amazed by her style of music and for the past 7 year i have been eagerly looking forward to her next album to be released.
Why it is that all the greatest artist's in the music industry take 5 or more years to release their albums i'll never understand, but if they come out sounding as great as Fiona's new album then i guess it's worth the wait, Fiona's style hasn't changed a bit and is still just as inventive as her first album was.
The Vinyl edition sounds incredible and is a welcomed addition to my collection, it also comes with a free MP3 download of the entire album. I have uploaded pictures of the album, enjoy.
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