Listening Party! : Fiona Apple's 'The Idler Wheel...'

Fiona Apple's new album, out June 19, is titled The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.

Emotions are so darn beautiful — that's the message of music, much of the time. The giggling lilt of a melody, the ennobling swell of a crescendo: Popular songs, especially, often enhance our moods to lift us up, unbreak our hearts, drive us toward liberating confessions and cathartic climaxes. Courting the sublime so aggressively that it often gets ridiculous, pop music encourages listeners to imagine feeling in ways that make us bigger, better.

Fiona Apple's music does something different. A classically lovely woman whose gorgeous, sultry alto once led her toward alt-divadom, Apple has always dared herself to be and do something else: to say no to simple beauty and instead express the urges and insecurities that more accommodating artists tend to avoid.

This has never been truer than on Apple's first album in seven years, whose typically hard-to-digest title is partly The Idler Wheel — the part in a system of gears (on phonographs and cassette players, among other extraordinary machines) that, seemingly passively, helps other parts move. The feelings Apple takes on in her deliberately maddening, eventually addictive new songs are those that inch us along, filling up most of our lives: icky little feelings like petty jealousy, self-doubt, bored loneliness and shamed regret. This is the stuff we'd rather tamp down. Apple wraps her fingers around it and makes it unavoidable.

seven years worth the waitCollapse )