Ap­ple sweet to the core

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - EGuides Movies - JAR­RAD BE­VAN

THE Idler Wheel . . . is a stark and skele­tal of­fer­ing.

Mul­ti­plat­inum- sell­ing ’ 90s pop star Fiona Ap­ple is back af­ter a long break with a de­light­fully strange al­bum.

Writ­ten with per­cus­sion guru Charley Dray­ton, Ap­ple’s record is ap­peal­ingly raw and un­fussy.

Most of­ten th­ese tunes were made with just pi­anos, drums and some found sounds that were turned into ab­stract per­cus­sion pieces for her un­ortho­dox rhyth­mic flour­ishes.

That meant record­ing the sounds of peb­bles falling down a garbage chute, or the noises inside a bot­tle- mak­ing fac­tory.

This tech­nique gives a light free- jazz feel to a song like Jonathan, which would have been a straight- bat love bal­lad without the off- kil­ter drums.

Fans of this tor­tured singer will know all about the orig­i­nal ver­sion of her last al­bum with pro­ducer Jon Brion, which leaked on­line while the record was be­ing re­worked ahead of its re­lease. His ver­sion was thin and chilly but more com­plexly de­tailed than the ver­sion that ended up in stores.

It’s an odd feel­ing but that al­bum and this new one were def­i­nitely cut from the same cloth. They could be cousins.

It’s a fuzzy mem­ory, in this age of at­ten­tion- lovers like Lady Gaga and the Jer­sey Shore oompa loom­pas, but Ap­ple has al­ways been awk­ward and un­com­fort­able with the spot­light.

Im­por­tantly, her ta­lent rises to the top and pop mu­sic rarely sounds this art­ful, un­easy, emo­tional or men­ac­ing.

Across th­ese 10 songs, 34- year- old Ap­ple de­liv­ers sweetly- cooed vo­cals. She also yells and growls and spews her words, al­most like a rap- style de­liv­ery. Her lyri­cal im­agery is vivid and dra­matic through­out.

Al­though com­monly painted as a sullen, freaky loner, some of th­ese new songs come across whim­si­cal and happy . . . as well as sad, in­se­cure and oc­ca­sion­ally in­sane.

The closer, Hot Knife, shows off her play­ful, light- hearted side to per­fec­tion, with its gen­tle, chant­ing rounds and sunny melody.

Ap­ple has made a ca­reer of writ­ing songs to ex­or­cise her demons. On Left Alone she sings: ‘‘ I don’t cry when I’m sad any more’’ and on Ev­ery Sin­gle Night she re­veals: ‘‘ Ev­ery night’s a fight with my brain.’’ Per­haps, to a fault, she’s an open book.

She’s also not the eas­i­est act to be a fan of. Two al­bums in the past 13 years and just four in to­tal, Ap­ple is es­sen­tially a recluse who pops up once or twice a decade to say: ‘‘ Re­mem­ber me?’’.

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