Review Summary: No matter how much time passes in between her albums, there's still no other female pop vocalist that does what she does.
Fiona Apple hasn't released any new material since her third album Extraordinary Machine back in 2005, and prior to that she hadn't released any new material since her second album When the Pawn… back in 1999. But even with the history of gaps, Apple's fourth album in her nearly 20 year career The Idler Wheel... once again shows that regardless of how long of a waiting period there before her albums, that the amount of waiting pays off and does not disappoint or come up short.
Fiona's music that people patiently wait so long to hear still holds up on each album and does not weaken despite the massive time periods in between simply because Fiona constructed a signature sound that defines everything about her. From all of her moods, to her feelings, and her attitudes, her music embodies her being, and because of this, the central sound slightly changes and alters on each album because Fiona grows and matures with her music. Her music is an accurate soundtrack representing everything about her at the time of her life in the recordings, and gathers the age and experience that refine her sound on the next release.
Fiona pours her honest self into each record over music that is composed to be able to morph with her, and compliment the changes she endures. Like a folk singer has his or her acoustic guitar, Fiona mainly has her piano, and she utilizes this piano to effectively produce blanket genres such as jazz and alternative rock that are flexible enough to be artistically crafted into ambitious pop, and flexible enough to be the backing tones to suit her personality and convey anything she may feel in her heart.
Fiona's relationship with listeners is a form of storytelling presented like that of folk singers. She is always in front, the music's position of power being an underlying vehicle to set the songs atmosphere as Fiona directs the main of the listener attention to her lyrics and delivery, never loosing the center spotlight. What's great about this is that Fiona never lets herself and what she's saying be swallowed and overpowered by a songs production or backing music like most female pop singers do by putting themselves on the same level as the music. Most female singers feel hindered and restrained by the guidelines the backing music is playing for them, so it's refreshing to hear somebody like Fiona Apple having dominance and control over the music, and herself a the unmistakable main priority.
This focus of herself and lack of equality between her and the music's creates songs that have the pitch of a raw session of venting and brooding, with every detail of all the anguish, or daunting sadness, or murky wallowing being brought out through her every aspect of her smokey and strongly defined voice. Fiona doesn't just randomly belt out long notes to show off talent, she twists and turns her voice to fittingly express every emotion she feels in these songs as much as possible, making every note she hits count as it should.
Fiona's music sounds like nothing else any other female pop singer is doing. It boasts a seamless fusion between jazz and alternative music through the creative and unique middle-man of a piano, all encompassed by an independent feel that feels open and spacious, yet focused and controlled. Fiona's piano is able to bring out all kinds of vibes ranging from sexuality, to lust, to depression, heartache, all frequently at the same time, and all with a performance that never plays the keys to the dramatic, it's always cool, suave and fragile.
Fiona is one of the only female pop vocalists to release an album in this modern age that is truly all about her, and not in a propped up or self-important way, but in an overwhelmingly human sense. And 'all about her' is how it should be, her music is under only her name after all. If only other female pop vocalists had this much of a natural and organic relationship of vulnerablility between their audience, while still being able to make ambitious music that deftly finds and blends the most compatible assets of genres and blends them together in original ways, and sounds as good as her voice does on top of it all.
Fiona is just herself on this album in every way, in her musical ideas, in her singing, and in her story-telling, and all creative and vocally mind-blowing while doing it. She has come back to the music scene years later and yet again proves that no other singer connects to her audience like her, no other singer is as jazzy as her, and no other singer still has this much independent imagination to back up her talent even after all of these years. All these kinds of things wrapped into one is sorely missed, and desperately needed more in pop music, and thankfully Fiona is powerful enough to have the potential to do it all single-handedly.