Carole King’s “Tapestry,” Radiohead’s “OK Computer” and Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” are timeless albums that have shown their respective artists at the top of their game. A new addition to the list is Fiona Apple’s fifth studio album “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” which shows Apple delivering on being one of the most consistent singer-songwriters working today.
“Bolt Cutters” is a collection of songs that show Apple’s view on today’s world in only a way she can. With poetic lyrics, heart racing percussion and a voice like no other, Apple gives us a non-traditional album where there is no typical structure. Rather, we have the story of a woman’s experience filled with unflinching power and raw emotions that creates a picture with enough depth for anyone to feel as though they have lived through it.
In an ironic twist given the world’s current condition, Apple has been writing and recording the album primarily from her home for almost the past four years. In the background of two songs you can hear Apple’s four dogs barking (who are credited, of course) as well as her expletive-filled mistake in the album’s final song, “On I Go.” This almost imperfect production is where part of the album’s mastery stems from. We get a view into Apple’s world that is so rarely seen given the fact that she has no social media accounts (other than her spare contribution to a fan account on Tumblr).
The other masterful aspect of the album is how revolutionary it sounds. Only twenty seconds into the LP features the first dramatic tempo change. This type of sudden, unpredictable change happens often in the other 13 tracks and it feels like a new style of music that has never been recorded before.
This raw and authentic style is rarely heard in a studio album from a well known artist like Apple. In the opening track, “I Want You To Love Me,” her voice slightly cracks as she belts out the self reflective lyrics. Just like her 2005 album “Extraordinary Machine,” Apple talks about her own imperfections in a way that is almost meditational. This continues throughout the entire album as Apple looks back on her entire career, from almost being blacklisted after her 1997 MTV Video Music Awards speech to her experience with the music industry.
But in a perfect album with no filler songs, it is hard to narrow down which are the best. Rather, the three that best define the LP include the title track,“Under the Table” and “For Her.”
“Fetch The Bolt Cutters,” the album’s third song, is a cry for freedom. Apple wants to escape from the prison she and others have trapped her in for so many years. From unhealthy relationships to being micromanaged from such a young age, the bolt cutters will set Apple free from the pain she has dealt in life. She originally got the title from a quote on the British TV series, “The Fall” where an investigator is on a case regarding a tortured woman. This goes to show how Apple views her life as being battered and bruised and that this track is her redemption to break free.
The following track has Apple finally free and ready to fight back. “Under the Table” shows a woman freely speaking her mind no matter who she is speaking to. Setting the scene is a real life fancy dinner with expensive wines and famous guests Apple actually attended. The chorus,“kick me under the table all you want, I won’t shut up,” shows just how open, raw and honest she truly is no matter the situation.
Most likely the album’s most relevant song comes from “For Her.” Written during the nomination hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, Apple uses this track to blend the stories of multiple survivors who were not believed. This all leads to quite possibly the most gut wrenching lyric where Apple sings, along with a choir of other women, about her own sexual assault that occurred when she was twelve. Apple knows that this lyric is hard to sing to, but acknowledges that “some people need to say it out loud to understand what’s happened to them.” She understands the hurt others have gone through and she uses this track to give power to the powerless, a voice to the voiceless and a sense of hope and optimism to every listener.
Normally it takes a few months to allow an to album settle in and find its place in the world. Giving anything a perfect score less a week into its release seems premature, but “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is not an ordinary record. Apple has delivered songs that will stand the test of time and giving this anything lower than the highest mark feels like a disgrace.
As in the ninth song, “Heavy Balloons” Apple will continue to “grow like strawberries” and “climb like peas and beans” for the remainder of her career. “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” is only the start of a Fiona Apple resurgence and those who do not know her name will learn it quickly.
“Fetch The Bolt Cutters” is now streaming on music streaming platforms. A physical release is planned for this summer.