June 19th, 2012 1:00am
We Try To Swallow The Wave
Fiona Apple’s previous albums were emotionally powerful, but highly refined and elegant. She has abandoned this approach on The Idler Wheel, slashing her arrangements down to bare rhythms, structural essentials and bits of abrasive sound for texture. Her vocals, somehow even more intense than ever, carry every song, to the point that it seems as though every cut began as an a cappella piece. Everything about the music is physical – the accompaniment draws your attention to the fact that the sounds come from objects being struck and touched; she sings in a way that keeps you aware of her body’s movements and strains; the lyrics obsess on physical fragility, tactile sensations and visceral imagery.
The first thing you hear in “Anything We Want” is a rhythmic metal clanging, the bright notes hitting with a familiar tone that recalls silverware and glass. The rhythm is jarring and impatient, while the chords have a steady sway. Apple’s words sketch out a scene that is placid but full of anxious expectation, as she does her best to trigger a physical response in her partner while remaining essentially passive. It’s a delicate balance, two people just out of sync, with at least one hoping for a moment of sublime connection. There are lines about waiting, and memory, and feeling as though you’ve regressed.
I love the image of her attempting to subliminally signal where to kiss her, but the chorus is what gets to me. “And then / we can / do anything / we want,” the rhythm spilling out slowly, as if you’d have to creep up on the idea of emotional and physical freedom. There’s a sense of mystery about what “we want,” like it’s just something beyond what we really grasp. We know our desires, but only a little, so it’s a little scary. What do we do when we do what we want? What will we want next? I love that this song is so eager to find out.
Buy it from Amazon.