Some of the most profound artistic statements need not rely on striving to embrace grandiosity to be deemed truly masterful or distinct. Though many ambitious musicians that come to mind when discussing the discography of American singer-songwriter Fiona Apple — notably Björk Guðmundsdóttir, Iceland’s shape-shifting musical goddess, and the adventurous and dreamlike Kate Bush — present ambitious creativity with grandiose visions in mind, Apple excels as an artist with an expression that is more subtle, but equally profound in its own right.
Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Apple’s April 17 release, is a showcase of talents taken to staggering heights of sublimity as the unconventional and accessible blend and twist into one another. A way is paved for a record confrontational, daring, and flourishing with and beyond its myriad of musical influences as it reestablishes its creator as one of the most powerful and creative feminist voices in the medium. The project sees her standing toe-to-toe with the likes of Joanna Newsom, Kate Bush, Björk, and PJ Harvey.
Fiona Apple’s distinct sonic identity can be summed up by three characteristic traits — all of which are amplified to greater volumes on her newest record. The first is the striking display of percussion instrumentation, an unstill backbone that serves as the skeletal surface upon which the other two prominent elements — Apple’s signature jazz-inspired piano melodies and her vivacious vocals — betray their liveliness. “Shameika” and “Relay” deliver effortlessly, with a liveliness at the core akin to a Tom Waits ballad off of Bone Machine, but with Apple maintaining her own brand of artistry.
When Apple embraces the chorus, “Kick me under the table all you want, I won’t shut up,” in “Under the Table,” she means to echo these sentiments of self-liberation throughout the entire record, not solely that track. Even her dogs join her on this journey, being credited as backing vocalists for some of her productions.
If the haunting human vocalists who join Apple on tracks such as “Newspaper” and “Heavy Balloon” don’t emphasize the prevalent theme of human connectedness and the complexity of the depth (or shallowness) of individual relationships, then the lyricism itself achieves just that. “For Her” is perhaps the epitome of such searing, honest, and intensified lyrical expression, a powerful poetic message intended to unearth the brutalities of female defilement often neglected or completely dismissed by society.
To call Fetch the Bolt Cutters a faultless record would by no means be a preposterous claim; every song, from the beginning, middle, to end, serves a purpose in the grander scheme of the record. Though the one-eyed glare of the songwriter on the playful cover seems to impose some premature frivolity upon a listener’s ears, Apple ensures that what lies beneath it is far more human and personal, nothing in the slightest to be ridiculed or be deemed humorous.
The title itself, a quote from a sex-crime show titled “The Fall,” is a layered reference to the plethora of qualities Apple presents on this record. She sets her caged individuality free, her creativity looser than it already had been, and unleashes a furious release of emotions from her own (and many others’) long-tortured psyche. She’s already fetched the bolt cutters for herself — now, she wants to fetch them for everybody else.