Fetch the Music Awards
It has been 8 years since the world heard a new Fiona Apple album. This past week she released Fetch the Bolt Cutters and gave the world the music it didn’t know it so desperately needed during this dark age of hopelessness.
I went into my first listen of this album completely blind, except for the fact that a few critics were singing its praises. I have loved each and every release of her music with increasing levels of appreciation, as she has improved with every record, so my hopes were quite high. Little did I know my brain was about to be turned into liquid jelly from the sheer magnitude of awesome it was about to ingest. Music has never felt so authentic, so vital, so alive.
To put it bluntly, Fetch the Bolt Cutters is an album of unbridled inspiration, frenetic passion, originality, grandiose lyricism, and attitude. This is the album Fiona Apple has been trying to make for her entire life, and topping The Idler Wheel was no small task. This is her masterpiece. This is the crowning achievement of her career. The eight years it took to produce it were not years wasted in reclusive mundacity. Quite the contrary, as clearly this time was spent compiling ideas, material, and experience necessary to pour into such a work of art. It almost renders one speechless. It’s just that good.
If I were to describe the aesthetic of this record, the first word that comes to my mind is percussive. Every track is dominated by the raw energy of the percussion. Whether produced by a sparse jazz drum set, or pots, pans, and spoons, or other household objects, the beat is the driving force of the track, accompanied by either some piano or keyboard notes, and occasionally a cello, and an upright bass. The other key factor in each track is clearly the vocal and the lyrics. Apple’s voice is the key instrument that is used to deliver the emotional wallop of the songs. Her vocal range is used to maximum effect, showing the power of the human spirit, whether it comes in a whisper, a high falsetto, or a deep-throated scream.
It’s also refreshing to hear an album that isn’t obsessed with perfectionism. There’s no auto-tune on this. The tracks often begin and end with sounds of movement around the instruments, shuffling and talking, a dog barking. It’s messy, but it’s human, which makes it more relatable and real. It feels like you’re sitting at a concert in someone’s living room. Apple wants you to be drawn in close to her, so she is speaking directly to you in the audience. She often drives her voice on a song to the point of making it crack. On the final track, a mistake is even left in when she forgets the words or stumbles over her tongue-twisting lyrics and says, “ah fuck it.” It’s amazing to have an artist be this devoid of artifice or ego, to just let her work speak for itself, to be unapologetically herself without needing to coddle an image. It’s a further reflection of a lyric she pelts you with in “Relay” that says “I resent you for presenting your life like a fucking propaganda brochure.”
In the current musical climate, it’s simply a rarity to hear a musical artist work with so much freedom, to not be held back by any established confines of convention of what they are supposed to be. It’s rare and it’s truly something special when that artist has something totally original to say and that something speaks with such ferocity it cannot be ignored. It just happens. And when you engage with art created this way, it immediately tingles the nerves in your back and stands the hair up on your arms. It says, this is what freedom feels like, and isn’t it powerful? Isn’t it something you should feel every day? Isn’t it beautiful to connect with something so intense, audacious, and bold? This is the embodiment of musical euphoria!
I’ve listened to this album on repeat since its release. It’s very difficult to single out favorite tracks. Another sign of something that is worth the hype. The whole thing is best experienced in one sitting, as the songs roll into one another with a natural flow and feed off each other like living breathing things. The stand-outs for me are “Shameika,” “Under the Table,” “For her,” and “Heavy Balloon,” where Apple shrieks with infectious passion: I SPREAD LIKE STRAWBERRIES! I CLIMB LIKE PEAS AND BEANS! These songs stick with you long after you’ve heard them. They become a part of you. They live inside you. They beg you to stay alive, because it’s the only way for music to be born.