Album review: Fiona Apple’s “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” is the perfect storm

It’s become standard practice for Fiona Apple to take from 7 to 8 years between her albums, but no one is complaining. Fetch The Bolt Cutters is able to form such an intimate connection between the auditory levels of the release and the audience that we’d be willing to wait another 8 years. The 5th album was recorded at the musician’s home that acted not only as the studio but also as an instrument throughout the creation process. Filled with peculiar percussions such as stomping, wall-banging, and hand-clapping the album is an unconventionally confrontational monologue delivered by Fiona Apple herself.

Every song, without exception, has a layer of suspenseful sonic development making it impossible to predict what is to come. The singer that started as the dark chamber pop performer still has a degree of mystery and anger to her creations, but this time around it is accompanied by a whirlwind of sounds. “Shameika” hits like a storm with the exhilarating piano intro that drifts by so quickly that you can’t help but need more. The talent for the melodic echoing of the lyrics has not faded, as the line “I’m pissed off, funny, and warm” is the foolproof description of the song. As the storm begins to pass the gentle sound of “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” sets in, but even with calmness, Apple seems intimidating. Listening to this release, you can’t help but think that this person won’t take any crap from anyone and will let you know exactly what she thinks.

The confrontational nature of the album isn’t intending to depart anytime soon, if anything it accelerates with every song. “Relay”, filled with intense percussions, is this mixture of anger and honesty that calls for more than one listen as the tribe-like sonic fighting against the perfect human proceeds. The acrimony is felt through the emotional voice of the musician singing “I resent you for being raised right, I resent you for being tall”. This vocal dominance is yet to be matched, as it erupts with the complex rhythmic texture and vibrant drums throughout the whole album.

Apple’s previous release The Idler Wheel… may have been fully acoustic but Fetch The Bolt Cutters is all about the percussions and piano. The two instruments are intricately used in “Ladies” to accompany the musician’s incredibly cheeky message of “take it easy, when he leaves me, please be my guest to whatever I might’ve left”. Yes, the song is about a breakup, yes there’s a lot of hidden emotion, but you can’t help but smile when listening to it. In an unexplainable sense, the track with bizarrely frolicsome tone is not as rambunctious, and yet, it still doesn’t fall back.

Fetch The Bolt Cutters wouldn’t be the experience that is if everything was straightforward. After all, it is rather fun trying to decrypt the message in “Heavy Balloon”, as Apple declares: “I spread like strawberries, I climb like peas and beans”. Under the thick layer of loudness lies the upright bass with the hint of blues in “Cosmonauts”, while the piano, like a current of memories, delivers a nostalgic feel of the album’s earlier tracks. The anti-gravitational field of song reels you in through the force of Apple’s gentle voice. The magnetic pull quickly sets back in during “Drumset” with a whole array of beats morphing into one, as the reality kicks in through the back vocals. Everything happens so quickly that you almost miss the peak at the very end of “On I Go”. The songs, that feels like an army marching into battle, works with the assertively unorthodox delivery of “but now I only move to move”. Even with the sonically messy percussion, it somehow feels just right, especially when the guitar starts to run wild and free. 

The album, is so complex and filled to the brim with emotion, that it requires multiple encounters. With every repetition of the Fiona Apple experience, new sounds and lyrics are discovered, making it an attentive journey that sees no end. Sonically intimidating at times, you can’t help but want to know more about each and every song. That is the artistic power expected from Fiona Apple and Fetch The Bolt Cutters is her showing just the kind of executioner that she is.


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