Thoughts on Fiona Apple and Fetch the bolt cutters


I have a brief history with Fiona Apple. Well, that’s a stretch cause this history is entirely one sided but it still has always stuck out to me. When I was a senior in high school, Fiona went to the night school version of my high school. I guess part of the deal of being in that night school was working during the day and she was given a job in my school office. I remember walking by the administrative office (which was right by the school entrance) and casually glancing in one day and seeing a new girl. She was sitting behind a desk just kinda staring off into space. My high school wasn’t huge so a new girl was always a big deal…and she was striking. She glanced back at me wildly disinterested and I kept it moving. As the days went on, I would actually be excited to catch a glimpse of this girl every morning. She was beautiful. Huge green eyes, pouty lips and she didn’t dress like the other cornball girls in my school. She also never smiled. I don’t recall ever seeing her smile that entire year. Just a hard return glance was all i ever got. To a 17 year old boy, that was intimidating as fuck.

As the year went on, i realized I wasn’t the only one who had noticed her and pretty much every dude I knew was buzzing about her. One time, i was in the locker room telling a friend about how hot I thought she was and this dude “Mike” walks up “You guys talking about Fiona?”. “Mike” (as i will call him here) was a handsome, charming and all around liked guy in the school. He was a few grades below me but was definitely a “cool kid” by all accounts. We nodded and he was like “Oh yeah, that’s my girl…” and he said it in a way that wasn’t meaning a friend who was a girl. He definitely made it sound like they were a thing. Somehow the conversation swung to my crush on her and he was like “Oh you like her? Hey man, lemme know I bet i can hook that up”. Now, I was confused cause, well, that was his girlfriend as far as I knew and he was talking about her like he could pimp her out. Now, looking back, this was an absurd exchange and both bullshit and kinda awful but, at the time, my young brain couldn’t even figure out what the fuck he was talking about so I sheepishly just exited the conversation and went about my day. As weeks passed, I would see mike and her playing around (actually, she did smile in those times) and once he stopped me and was like “Hey Tony, this is Fiona”. I said hi. She nodded back and that was that.

The school year ended and she was just a memory as the mysterious hot girl from night school. A few years later , I’m watching MTV and a video comes on. I squint in disbelief. holy shit…that’s the girl from the office! Her debut video :”Shadow boxer” had dropped and ,man, I was shocked. While the genre wasn’t my first choice (i was literally only listening to hip hop back then) I thought the song was cool and definitely read any article I came across on her. This was the magazine era so they were plentiful.

As the years past, I kept an eye on her career. That weird thing where you feel some sort of vague investment in someone cause you have some distant connection to them. I didn’t know her AT ALL but i felt like I knew about her before all this. like a hometown hero syndrome or something. Every time she would come out with something new, I’d check it. Usually I’d glom on to a song or two of each album and that would be that. It was a case of be music being something i knew was great but wasn’t always my specific cup of tea. That was until her album “Idler wheel…” came out. I heard the first single “Every single night” and was obsessed with it. When the album dropped, I purchased it. I don’t think I had purchased an album before or after that for years. I was on tour in Europe during that period so it was perfect timing. There is no time in my life when i get to truly sit with an album and digest it more than when I’m on tour. Traveling with my headphones on…it’s all I have. And this album was the soundtrack to that tour. I ran it back, over and over for an entire month. To this day, I can honestly say it’s one of my all time favorite albums. Ever. Ever. Ever.

Which leads me to her new album. “Fetch the bolt cutters” dropped last week and I had no idea it was coming until the day before. I was psyched and, again, what timing? Here i am, trapped in my house for who knows how long. All i do every day is eat, watch things, make beats, play videos games, jerk off and sleep. THAT’S IT. So, when the album dropped, I woke up the next morning , put my headphones on and just took a walk. Cruising through the mostly barren city, face mask on, new Fiona blaring.

Now, here’s the thing about Fiona apple’s music. It’s not for everyone. But it’s also music that seems to only work in extremes. It’s either Genius or it’s garbage. At least with how it’s perceived by listeners, from what i see on the internet. The reality is definitely in a grey area, just like all art. That said, I think Apple is brilliant. That also said, I think some of her music is unlistenable. She can be both those things at the same time. This is a trademark of innovative artists everywhere. I mean, let’s be honest, Prince is one of the all time greats but for every few hits, there’s one that missed but, hey, he tried and that’s the point.

On this album, I’ve seen her described as “unhinged” and , musically, I can certainly see that. The songs are often incredibly manic , jumping from idea to idea with what seems like no real focus. But that’s kinda the beauty of her musical mind. There is an unfiltered aspect to her recent output that makes sense within the chaos. She colors outside of the lines like very few artists and it usually works. Fiona apple is the only person who could ever make a Fiona apple album.

Now, while her being stamped as “unhinged” is generally referring to her presumed mental state i would argue that’s bullshit. Unhinged means crazy. it means no control. If we are talking about lyrics, she’s as hinged as it gets. She is razor sharp and laser focused. Her songs are about specific things and feelings that a lot of people can relate to, while also being very personal and nuanced. They are about insecurity, discomfort and complex relationships. As someone who grew up listening to rap, i’ve often scoffed at modern rock lyrics. It often comes off as either corny or some emo high school poetry written by a loser pussy. The “woe is me” factor of it has never appealed to me. Say what you will about rap but, when the lyricism is good, it’s really another level of communication. Singing may emote emotions that rapping never could but, on a word for word basis, I’ll put rap up against anything (not all rap obviously, but there are a handful of truly special writers out there). Fiona writes lyrics that are almost rap like but , obviously, leaning heavier towards poetry. But it’s not some hidden message shit that requires a cliff notes. It just requires you to listen and really take it in for what it is. It’s a feat when a song has nothing to do with you at all and it still resonates. Take “ladies” , for instance. It’s an ode to the women who date the men she dated after her and how they should unite and not disregard one another. I mean, that’s my dumbed down explanation of it but you know what i mean. The song just rings so true on so many levels and her ability to pinpoint these minute things is part of what makes her a master of her craft.
She has a truly specific viewpoint that comes across in her songs. She probably gets very pigeon holed by the media as this or that but she’s far more multifaceted and level headed that she gets credit for. She’s not an angry feminist. She’s not some crazy bitch. She’s a distinct thinker that’s able to express that in a way not many people can.

So, all that said, this album is a brilliant mess. It’s often hard to sit through. It’s often jarring. It’s maniacal at times. Other times it’s soft and warm but far less than “idler wheel” was. The thing about a Fiona Apple album is that there is no such thing as a “Shitty Fiona Apple album”. She is beyond that level of critique. She makes music entirely for her and it shows. And while this album seems to have her unraveling a bit musically , it surely is with purpose and exactly what she wanted to do. And I can’t fault her for that ever. I’m happy an album like this can not only be made but can get heard by so many people out there. This is important music. it matters. I may not run it back over and over like i did the previous album but that’s simply cause “The Idler wheel” was MY album. that’s the one that spoke to me directly. This album, less so but that shouldn’t belittle the achievement it is, as a work of art and i’m pretty sure there are tons of people for whom it channels directly into their soul. And that’s a good thing cause the world needs more Fiona apples but I guess we are stuck with only one. But thank god/satan/buddha/allah we have that one.

So this new Earl Sweatshirt album..

It’s been a big week for releases that everyone is losing their mind over. Kendrick dropped an album and the internet exploded. Apparently, it’s the best album ever made. I haven’t heard it but , honestly, I’m just not really into him. Dude is an exceptional rapper and has a very strong vision that I respect greatly but I simply never feel like listening to him. It’s not him, it’s me. Action bronson also dropped a new album. I haven’t peeped it yet either but with Bronson, you kinda know what you’re getting. He’s funny and strange and has a good ear for beats. I’mma definitely check it but there is less urgency there.
The last dude to drop something new is Odd Future’s pride and joy, Earl Sweatshirt.
It’s streaming here:
Now, i don’t typically write reviews on this site. As an artist, it’s just kinda shitty to do. Let the people who don’t make music have all the opinions, right? It’s just so easy to be biased , as an artist. That said, every now and then i get inspired. It’s not usually for good reasons though. it’s usually cause people are freaking out and I have it engrained in me to be like “Hey, chill’s not that good or bad…”. I’mm libra, yall! I did it with “Yeezus” and I did it with Earl’s Debut “Doris”. Doris was okay. it had some good songs but, overall, earl seemed bored and a little all over the place. It was kinda like an album made by someone who didn’t really want to make an album. With his second album “I don’t like shit, I don’t go outside” it feels like we’re getting the album we had hoped his debut might have been. All the complaints about his first album (he’s got no energy, the beats are meh, the songs don’t go anywhere, wasted talent, etc…) are pretty much fixed on this album. I’m not saying this is perfect album or even close to that but it’s definitely very good and huge improvement.
As a dude who always pays attention to beats, the initial thing that jumps out to me is the production. I could be misinformed but I heard that Earl himself produced the majority of this album. That’s pretty impressive. It’s got a very specific sound and it feels as though earl, by making his own tracks, is able to be himself musically. Sure, he can rap on menacing Tyler the Creator beats but he’s clearly way more at home over slow, somewhat off kilter jazzy beats. He likes rhodes and pianos. Simple melodies really but when you rap as well as Earl, that’s all you really need. He even delves into some instrumental stuff as some of the songs trail off into totally different , all musical parts. In general, he creates a pleasant backdrop for him to do as he pleases with. And that leads me to the next improvement. Earl has always been a great rapper. When he first came out, i was writing on this very blog about how he may be the best 16 year old rapper since LL cool J was rapping in Krush Groove. On “Doris”, that skill didn’t go away. He could still write and rap in a way that was often so good it slipped by you without resonating. I’ve definitely had moments listening to songs off “doris” that I hasn’t given much thought to when, all of sudden, it would hit me “Damn..he just murdered that verse” why did I overlook it? Probably cause he rapped with the enthusiasm of a kid reading aloud in class. On his new album, it seems he’s got a little energy. Sure, there are some songs where he’s still the quiet and reluctant rapping earl but having the tracks where he actually raises a voice a little bit really evens the whole thing out. It’s like if Eminem had only rapped like Triumph the insult comic dog on HALF of his songs, that album might have been more palatable. Nah, it would have still sucked but you know what I mean.

Another thing this album has going for it is great guests. Last years rapper of the year (in my opinion) Vince Staples returns to do what he does. Ratking’s Wiki pops up out of nowhere for a bi-coastal song that was a joy and surprise to hear. and then you got the two dudes I’ve never heard of…Dash and Na’kel. No clue who they are are or where they’re from. They could very well just be dudes Earl smokes weed with but, whoever they are, I like them. I can’t say either will be a star but what they contribute on the album definitely adds to it as a whole. That’s what posse cuts used to be like. Instead of gathering famous rappers to spit throwaway verses, dudes would just let their unknown boys get off a verse. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was bad but it was always interesting to hear.
Another thing I really like about this album is that it bends for no one. Earl basically made an enjoyable rap album of somewhat depressing songs about being anti social. There are no singles. So much so, the first song he dropped, “Grief” may be the least accessible song on the whole album.

I almost feel like he dropped that first just to be like “Fuck yall”. I know when I first heard it, i was like “hmm…i like the rapping but that beat isn’t really my shit…” but , when heard in context with the album, it makes a lot more sense.
The final thing I’d like to point out is how goddamn listenable this album is. Not just musically.It’s a great length (pause). It clocks in around 30 minutes. You can listen to it twice in an hour. That’s no filler right there.
So, yeah…Good job Earl!

Album Review: Earl Sweatshirt-Doris

I’m really not trying to make album reviews a regular part of this blog cause, honestly, it’s weird reviewing music when you yourself makes music. The only other one I did was Kanye’s new album but I felt that was okay cause it was such an “event”. However, Earl is someone I’ve been pumping up on this blog since his very first video dropped. Unless your name is Despot (Who, for those who don’t know, is the most ear to the street human being alive) or you’re one of the tumblr nerds, I doubt you’ve been big upping Earl in a public forum as long as I have. It’s because of this I feel obligated to comment on the finished product that many of us have been waiting on since first laying eyes on the bug eyed little kid in the barber chair who could rap his ass off in the “Earl” video.

By now you should know his history and all the drama that surrounded him over the last few years. If not, Wiki that shit.
One note though, due to the amount of leaks this album had prior to it’s release, it’s kinda hard to sit back and see this album as cohesive. That’s not Earl’s fault really but more just a testament of how albums get put out nowadays. It’s like every thing needs to sound like a mix tape. this doesn’t , but still, I’d imagine if I heard all of these songs for the first time upon getting this album, I might have a different take on it.
Anyway, enough bullshitting, I’ll get right into it and do a song by song review of his Debut full length “Doris”.
(Because they’re apparently being really tight about posting this album on youtube, I’m having trouble finding links so here it is streaming if you care to play along…)

Pre (Feat. SK La’ Flare)
I got issues with people setting their own albums off with verses by other people. While it has worked a few times in the past, this is not one of those cases. Mainly cause this dude SK La’ Flare is pretty mediocre. It’s almost as if this verse is there as a comparison for earl to look good next to for the rest of the album. It works on some level cause Earl comes in pretty hungry on this track. Beat wise, this song starts a theme that continues throughout the album. Beats that are okay. If Earl is dope on it, then the song is good, if he’s not, then it’s forgettable. That’s kinda the formula for much of this whole album.

This really should have been the intro/lead off song. It sets the table for exactly what you’re gonna get into. It’s a clearly depressed Earl self loathing over a choppy Neptunes beat. It’s got a less drastic “What’s up fatlip” vibe to it.

The dude either isn’t happy or he’s not into being a renowned rapper. The same way Tyler the Creator backlashed against his own notoriety, Earl seems to not wanna deal with the special powers he’s been given. Yeah, he’s a gifted rapper but I get the feeling he wishes he wouldn’t mind just rapping alone in a room to himself.

20 Wave caps (feat Domo Genesis)
I would have never Guessed Domo Genesis would emerge as the one Odd Future rapper from the early days that seemingly has the tightest grasp on making solid rap music. He’s more typical than Earl but he’s really tightened up his screws over the last few years. His energy kinda outshines Earl on this song even though Earl is clearly in a different league, mc wise. The beat is…okay. Again, another one of those “The rapping is gonna make or break it” kinda tracks.

Sunday (Feat Frank ocean)
Yeah, I don’t have time for the love jones ass tracks. I don’t doubt Earl is a sensitive man and has dealt with some girl issues. While he’s entitled to make these kinda tracks, I’ll stay skipping them until I die. Especially when done by 19 year old kids. I’m simply too old for that shit. But you probably aren’t so, have at this one.
Also, I like Frank Ocean….but his verse on this is like one of those Andre 3000 verses on R&B songs except it’s not very good. It’s not bad either. It’s more “who cares?”.

Hive (featuring Vince Staples)
This one sounds like it could have been on the first Earl Ep. Earl does really well over these super simple dark beats. But , let’s not avoid the elephant in the room, Vince staples murders this track. It’s funny cause I feel like Earl does better on songs that have guests on them. But, here, he simply can’t keep up with Staples energy. His mumblecore rap style just doesn’t match up with Staples swaggy shit.

This was the first song leaked. I like it. It’s the ramblings of a sad kid. Not to be confused with #sadboys. This is one of is his more personal tracks. You can even hear what sounds like pencils scribbling and pieces of paper being crumpled up in the back ground. Clearly, this one is a little deeper than many of the other tracks on the album. It’s basically a state of the union address for Earl’s headspace upon returning from his hiatus in Samoa. And that headspace? Cloudy with a chance of being overwhelmed by everything and possibly jumping off a bridge.

Sasquatch (Feat. Tyler the Creator)

Straight up, I can’t listen to Tyler any more. I don’t know if it’s him or me but, whatever it is, I hear that growl and just lose interest. His verse on this veers into a weird eminem like territory after he drops that line about Rihanna and Chris Brown. On the bright side, he seems to light a flame under Earl on this one. Earl’s verse is awesome. On, and that beat? Guess what? It’s…okay.

Centurion Feat. Vince Staples

The first start of this beat sounds like an outtake from one of the earlier Odd Future shit when Tyler did all the beats. Which isn’t good. Then, Boom! In comes a track that sounds straight off of a Kool G Rap album. For as badly as Staples blazed Earl on “Hive”, Earl makes up for it here. If there was a way to edit out the first part, this might be the best song on this entire album. At least for dudes who like “bars”.

Uncle Al
53 second song. how mad can you really be at it? This must have just been a verse he had laying around. I’m not mad at this but it’s kinda pointless.

Guild (feat. Mac Miller)
As part of Mac Millers image reconstruction, he’s doing tracks with all his favorite rappers and trying to rap like them. This is that. He does a decent enough job but, really, he simply doesn’t have much to say. He’s just getting better at saying nothing. Also, the last thing earl needs is his vocals pitched down. He already sounds like he’s sleep walking through the track so slowing it down only makes it seems like he’s barely breathing.#deathbedraps

Molasses (Feat Rza)
This is dope. The simple loop that screams “Wu-tang” seemingly breaths life into earls effortless/exhausted flow. As an old school dinosaur , it is nice to hear Earl rap over a sample like this. A whole album of this might be counter productive for a young relevant rappers career but , much like Kanye’s “Bound”, I’m pretty sure it’s secretly what we all were waiting to hear from Earl, production wise. Also, “I’ll fuck the freckles off your face, bitch” is a great hook.

Whoa (Feat. Tyler the creator)
This is kind of a forced hyped up track. Earl certainly kills it but I can’t help but think he’s not into these kinda tracks. Truth be told, he seems to prefer tracks where he can just sadly whisper his feelings. Maybe I’m reading into it too much though. Cause this song is as close to the song “Earl” as this album gets. The kids would say “he went in” on this one.

Now this seems like the kind of songs Earl wants to make. Emo, verbose, personal tracks with emotive beats. He sounds like a dude who either just finished crying or who is going to cry later in the day. I don’t mean it as a diss. This song is really good. In fact, if he’s gonna go the emo route, I wish he’s use this track as a playbook. He’s always sounded good over beats that have a feeling and, unfortunately, he decided to fill an album with beats that are…you guessed it..Okay. Emotive tracks really play so well of his lethargic rapping style. They seemingly connect the dots for him. Basically, he needs more this:

That’s his comfort zone that best puts his skills on display. The thing is, even when he’s on a more upbeat track and killing it, he just sounds more at home on depressing tracks where he’s allowed to rap about whatever he wants to rap about.

Knight (feat Domo Genesis)
This is a good farewell track. Domo does his thing. Earl does his thing. One problem, the slowing down the song thing seems like something that was a better idea on paper than in reality.

Overall, Earl made a solid underground rap album with above average rapping and beats that didn’t do him any favors. Sure, the audience may be more widespread and it might consist of people angry he didn’t rap more about rape but, to his credit, he seemed to make the album he wanted. That is to say, if he wanted to make an album at all. I can’t help but think that there’s an aspect to all this of a kid who’s very indifferent about his popularity and would rather be making demo’s in his bedroom for him and his friends than making music that will be judged by the entire internet. Earl is a great rapper. There’s not question about that. This album is very flawed but does show signs of what he’s capable of doing. The question I have is really “How much does he even want to do it?”. Hopefully, down the line, he’s figure out exactly what lane he needs to be in/feels comfortable it. He’s got the talent. All he needs is more focus (and high standards for beats).