#1 on the 2012 Musical Bacon Calendar
The #1 album of the year, Fiona Apple’s crazily-named The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw & Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, is the most perfect 43 minutes of music produced this year. If you’re not familiar with anything Apple has done since she pranced around in her underwear in that video back in 1997, this selection may feel like it’s out of left field.
While I definitely had a crush on Apple because of that video 15 years ago, my musical maturity helped me recognize her amazing songwriting ability when she released her third full-length, Extraordinary Machine, in 2005 (after much controversy). That album caught me totally off guard, and is definitely one of the best albums from the first decade of this millennium. (Check out Zach Galifianakis in the awesome song “Not About Love,” from that album.)
But The Idler Wheel… is better than that. After eschewing the limelight for six years (except for a few notable moments, including one where she performed Elvis Costello’s “I Want You” and made me feel like she definitely wants to kill someone, if she hasn’t already), Apple has released an album that is so sonically different from where she started, she’s practically creating a new genre of music all for herself.
This album is raw emotion, performed on piano and sung by the most scorned person on earth. Apple’s ability to channel her stories, her feeling, her gut into the form of song is unmatched by any other current musician. This is not the music of some emaciated 19-year-old in her underwear, this is the sound of a woman whose emotional state is not quite sound, whose medicine is her ability to pour it out of herself, unfiltered and without abatement.
The sound of the record is best described as sparse. There are very few instruments, some found-object sounds, and Fiona and her piano. And it’s a hard-hitting thing of beauty, like a rainbow seen over an area devastated by tsunami. If you’ve not listened to Apple in the past ten years, you owe it to yourself to pick up this album. The only familiar piece of the puzzle will be Apple’s profound voice. The most stark difference will be the lack of instrumentation. It’s not just raw lyrics, but raw sound. And it’s something everyone should feel and hear.
And with that, I wrap up 2012. It’s now 5 minutes before midnight on the last day of 2012; I’m making it just under the wire with my final post of the year. This has been a phenomenal year for music. SO many good records, so many albums that will remain with me well into the future. There are already a number of albums on the horizon that I’m looking forward to (you can follow my utility Twitter account @BaconTunes to see what albums and upcoming Seattle-based shows I’m specifically looking forward to, if you’re interested). If it’s anything like 2012, this is going to be a doozy.
2. An Awesome Wave by ∆
3. Gossamer by Passion Pit
4. Lion’s Roar by First Aid Kit
5. Maraqopa by Damien Jurado
6. Shallow Bed by Dry The River
7. Valtari by Sigur Rós
8. The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
9. Heaven by The Walkmen
10. State Hospital EP by Frightened Rabbit
11. A Thing Called Divine Fits by Divine Fits
12. Some Nights by fun.
13. Tramp by Sharon van Etten
14. Fear Fun by Father John Misty
15. Love This Giant by David Byrne and St. Vincent
16. To The Treetops! by Team Me
17. The Master: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Jonny Greenwood
18. There’s No Leaving Now by The Tallest Man On Earth
19. Transcendental Youth by The Mountain Goats
20. A Church That Fits Our Needs by Lost In The Trees
21. Hospitality by Hospitality
22. Free Dimensional by Diamond Rings
23. History Speaks by Deep Sea Diver
24. A Different Ship by Here We Go Magic
25. Negotiations by the Helio Sequence
26. Moms by Menomena
27. The Sound of the Life of the Mind by Ben Folds Five
28. Shields by Grizzly Bear
29. Every Child A Daughter, Every Moon A Sun by The Wooden Sky
30. Fragrant World by Yeasayer
31. Reign of Terror by Sleigh Bells