Fiona Apple’s music isn’t something you listen to once and understand it. It all builds on each other, and you need that background in order to properly appreciate what she’s been able to paint into words. I’ve had to spend some time with her new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, to truly digest the songs and let them touch my feelers. This album marks a kind of moving on, an evolution of self, it seems, for Fiona. I think it can be one for us, too. For me, she’s always been a conduit, falling somewhere between a therapist, a performer and a mind reader. I’m super glad she decided to release the album early. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Fiona recorded this album in her home somehow knowing that would be super relatable specifically for this time.
Let’s get to know the songs:
I Want You To Love Me — It’s the perfect opener here. “Every print I left upon the track has led me here,” and you realize your heart could finally be open to allowing someone in instead of pushing them away. It never had to be about anyone at all except you. Then the last 20 seconds of the song hits…OK, Fiona. Just get weird. I’m a Tori Amos fan, too, so shrieking during a song isn’t always an automatic skip forward.
Shameika — It’s crazy how one small memory can bloom in our heads like clouds of creamer in coffee, pulling out and connecting everything. The song is based on something a kid named Shameika said to Fiona when she 11, “Why are you trying to sit with those girls? You have potential.” Obviously that memory hadn’t left her, but it allowed Fiona to revisit her youth through this fun song and relate it to who she is today. I kind of hope Shameika finds her now so they can be friends.
Fetch the Bolt Cutters — Slap some duct tape on the mouths of people trying to get into your head and find your voice. In the end, you’ve got rescue yourself. And in this time of having to be so isolated from others, “Fetch the bolt cutters, I’ve been in here too long” is a mood for me all its own. Loved the nod to Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” too!
Under the Table — If you’re gonna force me to parade around in front of a bunch of assholes, don’t expect me to keep my mouth shut if someone says something stupid. I feel you, grrl. “I would beg to disagree but begging disagrees with me.”
Relay — The line repeated over and over is something I’ve learned so well in life. “Evil is a relay sport when the one who’s burned turns to pass the torch.” People who have been hurt go on to hurt other people. Darkness bleeds. Be the one to stop it. Don’t “enter the endless race,” even if it has a funky beat like this song.
Rack of His — Fiona’s lyrical brilliance really shines through on this song about unrequited love. The title comes from the rack of guitars this guy has. “I thought you would wail on me like you wail on them, but it was just a coochie-coo-coups.”
Newspaper — It is never productive (not to mention mostly impossible) to try to be friends with your ex’s new partner, or lover, or whatever they are. But leave it up to Fiona to put a rational voice to that misguided urge. You know what being in a relationship with that person is like, and you can both identify with the new person and want to protect them. “And I’m alone on the summit now, trying not to let my light go out” is definitely how we all carry those feelings.
Ladies — Fiona has a frank talk with us about viewing other women as competition and allowing men to pit us against each other. I, personally, have worked hard to allow myself and others grace in relationships because the only person at fault for hurting you was the one who was with you. We all leave things behind with people, whether its in their bathroom cabinet or their heart. We carry the things they left behind, too. I feel like this song is akin to a kind bitch and stitch, lounging in a circle on comfy pillows on the floor looking to heal ourselves of bad juju.
Heavy Balloon — My mouth literally dropped open upon hearing this song for the first time. It’s my favorite song on the album because I so wholly identify with it, having struggled with severe depression and anxiety my entire life. It’s exactly like she says, “People like us, we play with a heavy balloon / We keep it up to keep the devil at bay, but it always falls way too soon.” But even though we end up falling toward the bottom all the time, this tenacity and hope we have (“I spread like strawberries / I climb like peas and beans) keeps us trying to float. Another display of her lyrical genius, here.
Cosmonauts — Any couple who has been together long enough will feel this slow creep of growth and change. You like the way you look through the other person’s eyes, but can you survive the pull of the universe together? “You and I will be like a couple of cosmonauts, except with way more gravity than when we started off.” Her lyrics evoke a lot of my own thoughts of being held tethered through work and commitment to a relationship, or the cord snaps and you both just slowly float away.
For Her — It’s often difficult for women to identify what another person has done to them as rape and/or coercion. And what’s worse, it’s hard for men to identify that they were doing it. Sometimes they don’t even remember it happened. Fiona had a few sources of inspiration for this song, one being Brett Kavanaugh who still became a Supreme Court judge, even though he’s clearly at best a liar, at worst a fucking creep.
Drumset — A great song about hurt feelings after a break-up, even if it was written based on a misunderstanding between Fiona and one of her bandmates. The metaphor holds up well: “The drumset is gone, and the rug it was on is still here screaming at me.”
On I Go — The album’s closing song is basically Fiona chanting the culmination of her evolution.
“On I go, not toward or away
Up until now it was day, next day
Up until now in a rush to prove
But now I only move to move”
Pairing her strong piano melodies with weird, random sounds like a beating on a chair and stomping on the floor — she’s made another record that is perfectly imperfect and so very her. This album deserves universal acclaim. Perfect scores. All the awards. The only thing I am sad about is that it doesn’t seem to be available on CD yet. I think it’s coming out this summer?
Now that you have gotten a crash course in Fiona’s fifth album, here are 5 of her best recorded performances. Since she can’t tour right now to support “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,” I’m taking solace in times when she performed…there are so few of them, anyway.