I suspect that us fans will always be pining for every Fiona Apple release. We don't mind that she takes her damn sweet time when the result is so satisfying. Who else can give us such biting lyrics sung jazz-vocal style? Who else writes so many songs with dissonant chords? Oh, and as long as she stays on a major label, we'll blame them for her long absences.
I don't really know where to start with this one. I guess it's strange that every song on here but the last, 'Hot Knife', has already been done by her in some fashion on previous efforts. It's our basic Fiona with slightly less orchestration added. And since the strings and horns are dialed down to a bare minimum, percussion takes more or less center stage on 'Daredevil', 'Left Alone', 'Regret', and 'Anything We Want', making them compelling cuts on the list.
Okay, so 'Hot Knife' is a major departure for her song-wise. It's mostly acapella, Gospel/20s Big Band Era sound. By these facts alone, not only does it stand out, it might be the most exciting song in this collection. She repeats the same refrain at least 20 times but it never gets old. And it only gets better when she invites a small choir of voices to join in.
Another welcome change she embraced is using names. 'Jonathan' is written for/about an actual guy, Jonathan Ames. Apple's been linked to many famous creative-types. Whatever she had with them has been used in song but names have never been given, either by choice or by request.
The last difference seen on this 4th release is the artwork. All sketches scrawled about the lyric insert and front/back covers are credited to Fiona. None of it's too insightful but it lets the audience glimpse by what she may or may not be inspired.
I won't fault The Idler Wheel... for not sounding grand enough. Every ingredient for grand statements is available to the listener. Fiona has chosen to arrange them more simply, stately, dare I say, maturely. The lyrics read dramatically but aren't delivered as such. If I can't accept that then I can't accept her and I should listen to something less challenging.
The Verdict: 3 Bedpans