Fiona Apple has always been in the process of breaking up, usually preëmptively—before you can ask, she will provide a list of reasons not to love her. On a brief tour this spring, she opened each night with the rollicking “Fast As You Can,” from 1999, which is her signature guarantee of interpersonal mayhem: “Oh, darling, it’s so sweet, you think you know how crazy, how crazy I am. You say you don’t spook easy, you won’t go, but I know, and I pray that you will.” Much has been made of her comments at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards that the music world is “bullshit,” and of several instances of her leaving the stage mid-performance. These moments have become to Apple as bat-biting has been to Ozzy Osbourne—dramatic anecdotes that play well. But those stories have been replaced with a calmer narrative; by her own account, she’s spent much of the past few years doing little more than walking her dog, visiting the club Largo, near her house in Los Angeles, and working on small projects like filming hummingbirds. The stories do say something about obsession and control, and are indicative of how exacting an artist she is. After four albums in sixteen years, Apple has racked up maybe five bad songs, total. “Idler Wheel” is less crammed with detail than her last record, “Extraordinary Machine,” but it has the same effect: once heard, a song lodges in the mind, melodies take root, and words loop of their own accord. It is an astonishing album.
more from Sasha Frere-Jones at The New Yorker here.