As a diehard Fiona Apple fan, I was incredibly excited when she released her latest album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, in 2020 at the very beginning of quarantine. I had been surviving off albums from prior decades up until this release and was in dire need of new music from my favorite artist. Receiving extremely high praise from critics and fans alike, Fetch the Bolt Cutters exceeded my expectations. Fetch the Bolt Cutters is entirely different from anything released by Apple in the past, and her inventiveness clearly paid off, as Apple was nominated for three Grammys this year.
Apple chose an untraditional approach to creating her album, deciding to record inside her home. Known for being opposed to elements of the music industry, it’s no surprise that she dismissed traditional aspects of recording and chose to independently create her sound. Perhaps the most outstanding aspect of the album is the way in which Apple interacts with her home environment to create the sounds of the album. The album incorporates handclaps, chants, stomping and percussion created from found objects such as the bones of Apple’s deceased dog. She even includes her dogs barking, creating a cacophony of sound in multiple songs. These elements create a raw feeling to the album that allows the viewer to feel even more connected to the various themes that Apple presents.
Apple’s music is known for its condemnation of the patriarchy and explorations of mental health and trauma, along with her vulnerability in her expression. Her open and honest lyricism is still present in her latest album, and she reflects upon her growth and relationships. The opening track, “I Want You to Love Me,” is less of a love anthem and more of a meditation about life and her path. Apple’s spiritual side is at play here more than her previous albums as she contemplates the nature of the universe. In “Shameika,” she reminisces about a childhood acquaintance who gave her the strength to make it through her troubled adolescence. In both songs she recognizes what provided her strength. There’s a sense that Apple has gained a sense of clarity in the last several years, as she reflects upon her past with a certain acceptance and humor. Despite this, Apple reserves an anger for the unjust systems at place in the world. “For Her,” is a response to the Kavanaugh hearings. In “Ladies,” she encourages women not to be pitted against each other by men. Apple feels close to other women who shared the same abuser in “Newspaper.” Despite the heavy topics, the album never feels didactic or heavy, instead operating as a catharsis for the listener.
Each track is an original piece that encourages the listener to break free of limiting beliefs and systems, hence the title track, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters.” The listener metaphorically pries themselves free over the course of the album. Apple also transcends musical conventions while advancing a sound that is unique to her.