@review KODY FORD
The Idler Wheel is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
Epic Records – June, 2012
Apple continues her evolution from a young, sultry siren full of anguish to an ambitious songwriter intent on pushing the boundaries of her art form. Despite the ridiculous name, The Idler Wheel… maintains a sense of self-deprecation, which lends her some humility and keeps the album from seeming overly anxious.
The album finds Apple pursuing the experimental musical direction of 2005’s Extraordinary Machine, which was a departure from her earlier work. Gone is the raw physicality of her early songs like “Shadowboxer” and “Criminal.” Instead we’re given the melodic bitterness of “Werewolf,” a tune about the perfect man who secretly has a wandering eye. She opens the song by singing, “I could liken you to a werewolf/the way you left me for dead/but I admit I provided a full moon.” The song culminates in a final kiss-off to her former lover when she says, “Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key.”
Other standouts on the album include “Every Single Night,” “Periphery,” and “Hot Knife.” “Left Alone” sounds like big band rockers Squirrel Nut Zippers collaborating with Schroder from Peanuts. Her anxious piano riff atop the eager jazz percussion feels like a panic attack set to music. She gives the listener a front-row seat to the dissolution of a relationship when she sings, “How can I ask anyone to love me/when all I do is beg to be loved?”
The Idler Wheel… sounds like the latter-day heartbreak of a former child savant. By maintaining full control of her voice and instrument, she can blend a vaudeville piano riff with a guttural scream that stands in stark contrast yet blends perfectly. The album is a fantastic, ambitious work of art that is not for the timid.
4 out of 5 stars