Fiona Apple’s new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, gets its title from the British crime series The Fall. The main character cries out the phrase while trying to free a tortured girl from behind a locked door. A fitting metaphor for an album all about liberation. Fetch the Bolt Cutters percolated slowly in the eight years since Apple's last release, 2012's The Idler Wheel..., but is well worth the wait. Released coincidentally in the midst of a global pandemic, it feels essential and alive, an ode to spiritual and physical freedom.
The historically reclusive Apple is well equipped to confront a world currently facing widespread lockdown orders. In a profile in The New Yorker, Writer Emily Nussbaum met with the singer over the course of nearly nine months and noted the 42-year-old rarely leaves her Venice Beach home, other than to take early-morning walks on the beach with Mercy, her pit-bull-boxer mix.
The album finds Apple in a powerfully contemplative space. The singer has always had a knack for point-blank vulnerability, and on Fetch the Bolt Cutters the revelations reach the transcendent. On the title track, she sings, “I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill / Shoes that were not made for running up that hill” — which, yes, is a nod to Kate Bush. The end of the song devolves into a kooky orchestral of animal sounds, barking dogs and a cat’s “meow.” It's silly, playful and pretty brilliant.
Album closer, "On I Go," which was actually the first song Apple wrote for Fetch the Bolt Cutters. It's inspired by a Vipassana chant, based on a voice memo she recorded while hiking in Topanga Canyon, about striving to lead a life guided by inner impulses rather than outer influences: “On I go, not toward or away / Up until now it was day, next day / Up until now in a rush to prove / But now I only move to move”
The song is a rejection of our modern churn, the 21st century impulse to always be producing, creating, working. It's emblematic of Apple's artistic maturity; she's been through this before, birthed a slim but enduring discography, and she's not done yet.
I think Apple's genius comes from something complex. The fact that she spent years letting the album take shape, reworking melodies and letting specific narrative threads weave together, makes Fetch the Bolt Cutters feel incredibly specific but also universal.