WHO IS SHE? The outspoken, uncompromising, fearless and peerless singer-songwriter who burst onto the scene as a teenager with the raw, cathartic 1996 debut album Tidal and the Grammy-winning single Criminal. Speaking of awards: She’s also the artist who once accepted another prize by saying, “This world is bullshit. And you shouldn’t model your life (on) what you think that we think is cool and what we’re wearing and what we’re saying and everything.” Speaking of everything: She is also the artist who titled her second album When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right.
WHAT IS THIS? Her long-overdue fifth album and first release in nearly eight years. And a disc that has been eagerly anticipated since she first hinted at its creation more than a year ago.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Rebirth. Rejuvenation. And perhaps most of all, reinvention. Recorded in, around and with her Venice Beach home, the 13-song Fetch The Bolt Cutters finds Fiona Apple tossing out the rule book to deconstruct and rebuild her songwriting from the ground up. She mixes genres wildly, bouncing between rock and pop and jazz and blues and soul and classical and avant-garde. Along with regular instruments like piano, bass and drums, these elastic songs are filled with everything from stomping and clapping to barking dogs, the sound of roasted seed pods and Apple tapping on a box that contains her dead dog’s ashes — all the better to support her fearsome and powerful vocals, which can shape-shift instantly from a shivery bray to a soulful croon to a sinister snarl to a playground sing-song. Her lyrics are equally boundless and boldly unconventional, tackling both the intimately personal and the universally political with unflinching honestly, poetic beauty and scathing humour. In a nutshell (or a seed pod): It’s one of the most adventurous, distinctive and fascinating albums you’ve heard lately. And one of the best albums of the year so far.
WHAT ARE THE MOST REVEALING LYRICS? “Fetch the bolt cutters, I’ve been in here too long” kind of sums it up. Although “Kick me under the table all you want / I won’t shut up” is also pretty good.
WHAT SHOULD IT BE TITLED? When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right 2: Electric Boogaloo.
HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? On endless repeat. Which is what you’ll be doing anyway.
WHAT 10 WORDS SUM IT UP? Audacious, unrestrained, diverse, messy, unique, personal, rich, deep, thoughtful, confident.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? They all have their selling points, but the rollicking schoolday tale Shameika, the bluesy Heavy Balloon and the soulfully wry Ladies are good starting points.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS SAY? ‘I had almost forgotten about her after all this time. I won’t make that mistake again — even if she makes us wait another eight years.’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO IT? This should be at the top of the playlist for a good while.
IF THIS ALBUM WERE A CELESTIAL EVENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE? A comet that takes forever to circle back, but dwarfs all the other stars in the sky when it finally does.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? Fetch the wallet.