When a large part of the world insulates inside, Fiona Apple came to pierce us. A lot of Collect the bolt cutters, Apple’s first album in eight years and only its third in 20, has been recorded at her house, her songs constructed from rattling percussion tracks that sound as if they could have been collected using household objects . The barking dogs and the occasional meowing cat – sounds that have recently become more familiar to many of us than ever – burst in as if it had left the studio door ajar, and sometimes strange and unidentifiable sounds are heard. infiltrate the edges, as if its neighbors had left the television set too noisy. It’s an album about confinement, but also about escape, and how even when one is alone, by circumstance or by choice, the world is never far away.
In a New York profile last month, Emily Nussbaum wrote that Apple “rarely leaves his quiet home in Venice Beach except to take an early morning walk on the beach with [her dog] Pity. ” Collect the bolt cuttersThe title comes from a scene from the British show The fall, and the lyrics for the song “Heavy Balloon” were inspired by the Showtime series The case, which means Fiona Apple has spent the past eight years the same way you and I spent the past month: sitting inside and watching TV. She also stifled her past, like the childhood bully who taunts her in “Shameika”, or the “cool kids” in the title track who “voted to get rid of me” and “stole my pleasure. But it doesn’t just persevere or heal old wounds. She writes as someone who has learned that the only way out is to get through, and even after decades, you may feel like the journey is just beginning.
Apple alluded to bolt cutterout for a year, so it can’t really be classified with the recent boomlet in socially isolated art, but his decision to release it when so many artists have pushed their releases from spring to fall seems to both generous and helpful, and the reaction to gratitude bordering on canonization. I had to browse my social feeds for as much as one comment covered on the album, that Pitchfork awarded a perfect 10.0 – only the 12e the time that passed when an album was first released. (In particular, one of the other cases was that of Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which was published on September 18, 2001 and, as bolt cutter, was an album that landed in the middle of a national crisis for which it seemed inadvertently.) With its disturbing title and garish cover, bolt cutter does not look like an album that wants to be universally loved: it is thorny and off-putting and proud of it. In “Under the Table”, Apple sings of being the ill-mannered dinner guest, one who has a little too much to drink and begins to shoot the mouth. But at this point, we’re just happy to have guests, even imaginary, and in an emergency, the battle-worn apple, telling war stories and full of righteous anger, can make a strangely comforting presence. “I’m edgy, funny and warm,” she rhymes. “I am a good man in a storm. “
Coming together under one roof to share art with strangers has become a virtual impossibility, and the only Hollywood film released last month was Trolls World Tour, which is more like a device for subduing children for two hours than something we can bring to our collective hearts. Collect the bolt cutters is a balm that responds to this unexpressed need, wanted by hunger in the status of mass art to have something that we can share in addition to uncertainty and fear. As Tiger king, that’s something that would have been a big deal at all times but seems much bigger because of the vacuum in which it appeared.
Listen Collect the bolt cutters As I walked through my neighborhood on Friday morning, in front of the shuttered stores and masked people, what kept striking me was not so much what the album said as the way it sounds, in a way claustrophobic and spacious at the same time. You can hear the space around the instruments, like the drums that resound in “Rack of His” (which reverses the “nice rack” catcall to make a collection of men’s guitars) or the syncopated trap of “Relay”. On “Journal,” a muffled dog bark and what could be the low rumble of an oven picking up a lazy drum beat, then Apple begins to hum without a word over it, as if it were composing the song on the spot during his morning coffee. As revealing as seeing Taylor Swift in Miss americana composing songs in a small studio with a single collaborator, it’s also surprising to see how this intimacy is finished with the final product. Apple’s album has a sense of belonging, as if it lets you in, so you don’t have to leave it. (Tellingly, Nussbaum’s profile presents a time when Apple is unhappy that a recording has too much compression, which tends to increase the punch of a song but makes it less realistic.) Producer Steve Albini said a day that few things sounded better than a drum being struck in an empty room, and bolt cutter is full of that sound, of rhythms hitting the walls and crashing. The album refers to physical abuse and sexual assault, but the treachery that plays out over the entire length of the song is on “Drumset”, when she comes home to find that her drummer is gone and has taken her battery with it.
Sure bolt cutter, the melodies fall like unexpected guests and leave just as suddenly, sometimes moving several times during the same song. It’s like those dreams where you find a new room in your own home, a room that has always been there but that you have never seen. As soon as you feel you know where you are, the place changes again. But Apple finds its bearings, if only by being dragged so low, there is only one way to go. “I’ve been here too long,” she sings on the title track, and if we don’t know yet when we can open our own doors, at least it’s good to hear someone who knows how go out when it’s time.