Occasionally, an album comes and shakes your foundational understanding of “good music.” Upon listening, bass’ tectonic plates shift, the kingdoms of discographies fall to rubble and Rosetta Stones are unearthed as new songs become pillars to compare all music to, past and future.. From this point forward, I will not give an album five stars unless it accomplishes such. Fiona Apple’s Fetch The Bolt Cutters is a five.
Fetch the Bolt Cutters is Fiona Apple’s fifth studio album and her first release in eight years. It’s a brilliantly swirling collection of piano-driven tracks, centering on themes of confinement, anger and empowerment. The themes are exacerbated by Apple’s choice to record the majority of the project within her home, making it perfect for pandemic listening.
The arraignment is spectacular, and headphone listening is a must. The first 18 seconds of track one, “I want you to love me,” play solely through the left channel. A symbol crash played through the right channel at 19 seconds beckons in the piano and initiates full stereo, leaving you realizing, “oh my headphones aren’t broken.” At around the two minute point of the track, a crescendo gives way to a fermata-ed “you,” and the piano chords and bass line begin rhythmically alternating between the left and right channels. At this point in the song, even while writing this review, I cannot stop myself from swaying back and forth. The final ten seconds of I want you to love me” are an accelerando to the tempo of track two, “Shameika.” “Shameika,” a more bluesy track, is a fascinating look into elementary school memories and how childhood perceptions of oneself linger later in life. Similarly to how track one begins in the left channel, track two ends in the right.
The title track is a showcase of unconventional percussion that, as you probably can predict, involves themes of escaping one’s home. It’s an incredibly pertinent message– I’ve been mumbling the chorus “fetch the bolt cutters, I’ve been in here too long” to myself while struggling to finish this review… I hope Fiona is proud.
The run of tracks 6-11 is a powerful and, at times, heartbreaking look into Apple’s history and perception of love lost. “Newspaper” contains a banging-on-trashcan-lids and acapella beat and sees Apple reflecting on the similarly painful experiences she and her ex-boyfriends’ former partners likely share. “Ladies,” my favorite track from the album, has a similar message. The repetition of the word “ladies” and the song’s chorus seem to show Apple comparing herself to her past partners’ new lovers. I’m not sure why, but whenever I listen to “Ladies,” I think of Carol Burnett’s performance of “Little Girls” in 1982’s “Annie.”
Track 11, “For Her,” is undeniably the climax of the album. The song was released in response to the confirmation of serial rapist Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. It is a narrative track that sees Apple serving as the mouthpiece for a woman who was assaulted by her Hollywood associated partner. Going into further detail of the song’s content feels akin to spoiling Return of the Jedi in 1983, so I will simply say whether or not you listen to Fetch the Bolt Cutters, everyone has a duty to experience “For Her.” Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters is undeniably the single best album released in 2020 and may likely retain that title through the end of the year. I implore you to listen, right now.
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