Archive | 2:54 PM

Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters Album Review

14 Dec

I Want You to Love Me:  Beautiful, swirling piano.  The notes are held so long they become discordant.  Singing slowly transitions from sweet to rough.  The song breaks down at the end with piano fluttering and dolphin vocalizations.  It feels weird, but must be symbolic?

Shameika:  Unlike the last song, this song sounds good right away.  The piano playing elevates all of the songs, and you can tell the vocals are very intellectual.  There is so much going on in the song (production-wise, instrumentally, and lyrically), you have to listen several times to pick up what Apple is putting down.

Fetch the Bolt Cutters:  More spoken word, which reminds me of when Jewel used to strip down to poetry.  And the singing remains “off” and intentionally displeasing to the ear.  “I grew up in the shoes I was told I could fill.”  There are many gems of lines in the song.  It’s about filling expectations, then later, realizing what you want to do, and who you want to be.  She is fetching the bolt cutters to remove these chains society has placed upon her. There’s barking and heavy breathing at the end.  Maybe a symbolic, being chased and pursued, for going your own way.  Fear, but defiance in spite of it.

Under the Table:  Apple, won’t be silenced.  Not for society.  Not for her partner.  “Kick me under the table all you want, I won’t shut up.”  The piano steps up, and Apple goes into more of a singing shout to show her passion about the subject.  There is more off-key shout-barely singing, and the piano does a lot of the work.

Relay:  The beat is consistent with the last songs, moving effortlessly through the album’s theme.  A lot of production.  Many repetitions of the phrase.  Fiona presents herself strong here, not a victim, or soft or helpless.  “Evil is a relay sport when the one who’s burned turns to pass the torch.”  And “Presenting your life like a fucking proaganda brochure” is such a great line.  “. . .  If I hate you for hating me I will have entered the endless race” is the key to the meaning of this song.  Pitting women against each other is our patriarchy’s way to hold us all back.  There are some wailing sounds that I don’t understand.  Is there a cello in here?  

Rack of His:  The initial notes and background sound like that popular Matt & Kim song.  More rough singing to tell a story, which was cerebral to the extent I had to listen several times before I picked it up.  She loved this person so much, and they were only with her to avoid boredom.

Newspaper:  More barking.  An incest song?  It’s difficult to listen to details of grooming and manipulation of an incestuous father.  But it’s a good, and an important song, to put out in the world.  The singing is rough again.  Seeing this sister(?) being abused in the same manner makes Apple feel close to her.  Though the father is manipulating them to dislike and distrust each other.  She does vibrato at the end.  Closes with random thumping.

Ladies:  Repeats, “ladies ladies ladies” four times in harsh, displeasing tones before starting to really sing.  “Yet another woman to whom I won’t get through”  The ex wife of another ex of mine, but the dress at many degrees of separation.  Apple is part of the social puzzle that has women policing other female behavior to reinforce patriarchy.  She emphasizes, whether we play along, enforce, or rebel, we’re all still part of that system.

Heavy balloon:  A lot more repetition–Apple really wants to stress her message to the listener.  There are many thoughtful lines.  “I spread like strawberries” “I’ve been sucking it in so long, I’m bustin’ at the seams.”  “The bottom feels like the only safe place that you know.”

Cosmonauts:  Apple is startlingly smart.  She has lines like, “Your face ignites a fuse to my patience…  Be good to me before you’re gone.”  And “Way more gravity than when we started off” to tell us this relationship has gotten burdensome and heavy.  It’s good imagery.  There are chaotic rounds near the middle of the song.  “Started off” is repeated, then shouted.  It emphasizes the difference from where the relationship began to where it has ended up. Ending with Apple whispering.

For Her:  A group of female voices.  “Treating his wife like less than a guest”  “Trying to act like the other girl acts”  The lyrics get fast.  It nearly sounds like a sports chant.  Beat.  A fun sounding verse.  “Like you know you should know when I came to bed, like you don’t know what you did.”  A pretty big musical break– to show a different day?  It almost sounds like the next song.  “You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in.”  A chorus, but it gets increasingly sharp(?) and displeasing which ends the song.  I think it imitates how things went sour in her life?

Drumset:  She doesn’t understand why the subject of the song, didn’t want to try, and took it all away.  The drumset is gone.  This person won’t take calls, won’t talk at all.  The song ends on “aaannnd” maybe the next song will continue the story.

Oh I Go:  Sung in lower tones, like stage whispering at some parts.  Many levels of voice.  Choppy phrases of woodwind(?) end the song.


I initially was happy to see Fiona Apple releasing music again, because it’s been a long drought, and she’s historically an artist I like.  And on first listen to the album, I could see there was a lot going on and it should be good.  But Apple doesn’t just hand it to you.  You have to work to understand and appreciate Fetch the Bolt Cutters.  And it’s also intentionally not that sweet and pretty and pleasing to the ear.  Apple has made known she can sing beautifully, and play piano with virtuosity, but here she chooses not to.  So it’s a little work to listen.  But also a cerebral masterpiece.  Smartest work of 2020–and that’s saying a lot with folklore on the scene.