Fiona Apple’s latest album “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is an avant-garde display of lyricism and vocal harmony. The art-pop artist has created an album that is representative of Apple’s experiences and feelings surrounding hurt, relationships and sexual assault.
Released on April 17, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is Apple’s fifth studio album, and her exposed vocals and stripped percussive elements display an impressive disregard for standard methods of music production. Throughout the album, Apple uses various methods of multitrack vocal layering to heighten each song and provide a choir-like effect.
In her track “Relay,” Apple maintains a constant, almost urgent rhythm that increases its intensity throughout the song. Apple’s repetitive lyrics reflect the song’s theme of evil being a never-ending cycle of hurt. Throughout the song, Apple voices her frustration with influencers who present their lives like “propaganda brochure(s),” which happens when people paint their lives to be more spectacular than they are. In this lyric, Apple expresses her disdain with people’s futile attempts to compare themselves with influencers, and she relates those vain attempts to the endless cycle of hurt caused by constant comparison. This catchy tune highlights how hurt transforms itself into a ceaseless cycle that occurs when people pass on hurt without acknowledging its roots. Somehow, the song’s eerie conclusion both embodies the song’s meaning but leaves more to be desired. Without a clear-cut ending, listeners are left waiting for the next tune while “Relay” finishes its dissonant outro.
In “Cosmonauts,” Apple questions a relationship’s ability to endure and wrestles with her conflicting feelings about long-term relationships. Apple begins the song by criticizing her lover and threatens to leave if she isn’t treated right. Still, she also admits that her lover has significantly altered her sense of individuality. When she reaches the chorus, Apple compares her relationship status to being a cosmonaut and feeling gravity’s stronger effects as her relationship evolves. Apple uses the gravity metaphor as a way to describe her gradual attachment to her lover and the process becoming more committed to each other as the relationship matures. As “Cosmonauts” progresses, its intensity level fluctuates and eventually climaxes in the post-chorus, where it immediately dies down into an introspective whisper in the final chorus. This final chorus represents the duality of love and its ability to consume individuals in waves of passion and then wither into nothingness.
“For Her” is a focal point of the album through its continuous yet irregular harmonies that provide life and depth to the song’s lyrics. “For Her” depicts multiple perspectives of sexual harassment and the lack of justice for survivors of sexual abuse. The song begins with complementing harmonies that continuously evolve and reconstruct themselves throughout the song. The song gives a voice to survivors of sexual violence, which is highlighted through the layering of Apple’s multiple harmonies heard throughout the song. By the song’s ending, the previously complementing harmonies contort themselves into a final dissonant chord that leaves listeners aching for resolution, and it symbolizes the lack of closure the survivors have gotten. Simplistic percussive elements strengthen the song without intruding on the harmonies, and the lack of other musical instruments forces listeners to listen to Apple’s exposed, expressive lyrics.
While the album defies the model of traditional music, many of the songs lack cohesive endings, which makes them indistinguishable from one another. Because Apple relies on similar frameworks for the song’s composition, it’s difficult to discern the differences between songs. After a while, the insufficient amount of variety among songs becomes dull and hard to listen to. This album relies on Apple’s harmonies and lyrics to steal the spotlight, but these factors do not eclipse the lack of musical diversity throughout the album.
“Fetch the Bolt Cutters” offers no apology for its impenitent outlook on life and its faults. This unparalleled album is hard to listen to because it is raw and real and utterly powerful. Apple relies on eccentric means to express her music, and this album cannot be taken lightly or casually listened to. “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is an unprecedented display of defiance that provides a new angle on music composition and of society’s faults.