Fiona Apple’s New Video, Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson: ‘Hot Knife’

Posted in Music on July 24th, 2013 by Nick

I miss music videos. Sure, they’re still kickin’ around, but very few are that exciting lately. In this fast moving, Spotify-transformed industry, we’re mostly concerned with what’s new and next, and rarely do we take the time to check videos out anymore, sad but true (well, unless it’s an OK Go video or something). But here’s one that’s worth your time: Fiona Apple’s “Hot Knife”.

This new video off Apple’s The Idler Wheel… (TLW’s #1 album of 2012) is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson – her ex-boyfriend and director of her other videos for “Paper Bag,” “Limp,” “Fast As You Can,” and more. Undoubtedly – the two make beautiful creations together. “Hot Knife” blends black and white shots with color, focusing on close-ups of Apple’s face, and a split-screen side-profile of both Apple and her sister Maude Maggart, who also sings on the track. Oddly, the video is exactly what’s expected from the track. The three-paneled profile shots fluctuate from gray to color to silhouettes, undulating with the song’s pointedly repetitive lyrics. It’s art-meets-quirk, both visually and audibly.

Anderson really captures the emotion in Apple’s music, and as any Apple fan knows – she’s always insanely expressive.

And that’s an understatement.


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TLW’s Top 10 Albums of 2012

Posted in Music on January 2nd, 2013 by Nick

Happy New Year, gentle readers!

I don’t care what the fogies or hipsters say: 2012 was a great year for music. Music never dies and if you put the time and effort in, there is greatness to be had and discovered. Although this list has quite a few returning favorites, there are also some breakout hits, new artists, and other nuggets of excellence in my Top 10 this year. As I usually disclaim, my Top 10 and subsequent Honorable Mentions are chosen with all of the following criteria in mind: personal faves (cuz this is my blog and fuck you), critical reception, public opinion, and overall badassery. I love all genres equally, so I like to have a list that is representative and eclectic, while still abiding by my ignorant, yet justified creed that Country music is just something that dumb people have imagined in their tiny little brains.

Awkward transition. Enough already, right? Here we go:

10: Walk the Moon – Walk the Moon

Walk_the_Moon_AlbumBased in Cincinnati, Ohio, this four-some Pop Rock outfit is definitely an up-and-comer. Their melodies are infectious, sometimes sugary, but never wavering in attitude. It’s dance-rock at its finest – a definite party starter. The band also gets bonus points for pulling out tunes like Bowie’s “Lets Dance” and Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal” live. Their shows are visual representations of everything the album showcases: vibrant riffs, larger-than-life sing-along choruses, and energy to the max. They may be young, but with a successful follow-up, they could very well become the next Killers. I wouldn’t count them out for a second.
Hear Here: Anna Sun, Jenny, I Can Lift A Car

9. Screaming Females – Ugly

Screaming_Female's_Ugly_album_coverScreaming Females leading lady Marissa Paternoster means business. She’s the band’s only screaming female, in fact, screeching and shredding her band through angsty punk and hard rock cuts album after album. Paternoster even made SPIN’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time – no surprise to anyone who’s seen the band’s live show. Ugly is their fifth official effort and is all the proof one needs to recognize these guys as a cohesive rock powerhouse. Though earlier albums are rawer and messier, Ugly shows growth without losing edge. Take a bite, bang your head, scream along.
Hear Here: It All Means Nothing, Doom 84, Extinction

8. The Killers – Battle Born

The_Killers_-_Battle_BornBattle Born is the album The Killers have been waiting to make their entire career. Having started with Hot Fuss, a youthful romp through New Wave and Pop, the band then traversed through Springsteen-esque rock, steel drums, saxophones and more, eventually landing to the Battle Born era of huge Arena Rock songs, bolstered by Flowers’ booming vocals. It’s a slow burn, but those that put in the effort are rewarded with an album that just feels huge, undoubtedly able to fill the large scale arenas and venues that The Killers always wished they would play. In a world where Kings and Keys grow up and gain traction while losing….something…The Killers have grown and matured without ever sacrificing artistic integrity. This album may not land on many top lists from this year, but it should.
Hear Here: Flesh and Bone, Runaways, Battle Born

7. Emeli Sandé – Our Version of Events

Emeli-Sande-Our-Version-Of-EventsEmili Sandé is somewhat of an Ellie Goulding-type story. America will catch up later, rather than sooner and that’s a shame. Sandé has played in both the Opening and Closing ceremonies at the London Olympics. She’s written songs for Rihanna, Leona Lewis, Cheryl Cole, Tinie Tempah, and more. The Scottish singer’s album peaked at number one in the UK shortly after its February release. After all this and countless television appearances, she’s still yet to make a huge “Lights”-like explosion across the pond. Regardless, Our Version of Events is one of the best R&B albums in recent years. Her voice is powerful, packed with the emotion of her own music and lyrics (the singer states that she never wanted to be an artist who performed other people’s music). Though a “new” artist, she sounds wise beyond her 25 years.
Hear Here: Heaven, My Kind of Love, Breaking the Law

6. Tame Impala – Lonerism

Tame_Impala_Lonerism_CoverEvery couple of years an album is released that sounds like it was found hidden in a time capsule buried in the 60’s, yearning for the present day to come to its senses and discover it. Welcome to Lonerism, an album that sounds so intimately connected with the zeitgeist of the past after canoodling with the sounds of The Beatles, The Who, and Pink Floyd, and more. Hell, it even sounds like Floyd members played on this record. Its influences ooze throughout every song, with the support of modern song structures and arrangements, psychedelic keys and synths, and undulating tempos. It zigs and zags throughout its 52-minute trip, dipping into the past and the present, simultaneously. It’s a divine, near-perfect listen. If you missed this one in 2012, you missed out.
Hear Here: Apocalypse Dreams, Endors Toi, Feels Like We Only Go Backwards

5. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

Cloud_Nothings_Attack_on_Memory_album_coverCloud Nothings are a great tale of Indie Rock awesomeness. Originally starting as a solo project in the basement of singer Dylan Baldi’s parents house, Baldi recorded in GarageBand and posted on MySpace under several different fake band names. Cloud Nothings was one of them. A couple years, three band members, and one record deal later, Cloud Nothings released Attack on Memory, the third official release, on Carpark Records. It’s everything you’d want from a true indie band: An authentic garage feel, dark and desperate lyrics and themes, and relentless energy as the album unapologetically stomps through a meager 34-minute run. You’ll play it once and immediately spin it again. Though youthful, short and sweet, the album is just as calculated, precise and determined. Look no further than “Wasted Days” – a track about not living up to your own potential and expectations. When Baldi screams “I thought I would be more than this” at the end of the nine-minute rager, you’ll get the chills.
Hear Here: Wasted Days, No Future/No Past, Separation

4. Jack White – Blunderbuss

Jack_White-BlunderbussHasn’t everyone drank the Jack White Kool-Aid by now? Make no mistake, White is a sensational song-writer, musician, and rock star. In fact, he’s one of the few true rock stars we have left. With Blunderbuss, White finally settles into his solo groove with a polished collection of tracks that he wrote, recorded, and produced entirely by himself. He’s one of the few Jack-of-all-trades the industry has left and Blunderbuss goes to show exactly what White is still capable of: White Stripes-esque rockers like “Sixteen Saltines,” slower introspective tracks like “Love Interruption,” and the ever-so-slight twang of the title track. The best part about Blunderbuss? The confirmation that if he can’t scratch an itch with The Dead Weather or The Raconteurs, he’ll set out on his own. There’s seemingly no stopping him and no limit to what the man can do. And only good can come from a restless spirit like White.
Hear Here: Sixteen Saltines, Trash Tongue Talker, Weep Themselves to Sleep

3. Garbage – Not Your Kind of People

garbageFree from the oppressive rule of a major label, Garbage is currently making some of the best music of their career. Impressive, though it’s not like they weren’t around the block before (Butch Vig, anyone?). Releasing this album under their own StunVolume, Not Your Kind of People feels like Garbage circa the 90’s: the production is slick (as always), the drums are mean, and Shirley Manson’s lyrics are dark, foreboding, and real, forging a bond with its audience. And those guitars on “Blood for Poppies”? What’s not to love? A lot of bands calm down by the fifth or sixth album, unplugging their guitars for quieter fare. Garbage are not those kind of people. They’re not afraid to make a balls-out, heavy and electrified track like “Battle in Me,” and I fucking love them for it. These four are a group of seasoned, under-appreciated professionals and Not Your Kind of People deserved way more fanfare, way more critical praise, and way more time in the spotlight than it was given this year. I won’t make that mistake here.
Hear HereAutomatic Systematic Habit, Battle in Me, Beloved Freak

2. Santigold – Master of My Make-Believe

220px-Santigold_-_Master_of_My_Make-BelieveIf Santigold (née Santi White, Santogold) releases an album, you put it on your top albums list. Plain and simple. No other artist is doing what she’s doing on the music scene right now, nor doing it with such grandiose artistry. Master of My Make-Believe picks up right where her debut left off, with beautiful arrangements and funky beats (thanks in part to a slew of producers including Switch, Diplo, Nick Zinner, Greg Kurstin, and more). She’s quite possibly the most eclectic artist of late as well, masterfully blending rock, pop, hip-hop, funk, and more into her own genreless concoction. Whether listening to the fierce, bouncy single “Go!” (featuring Karen O), the airy, lulling “Disparate Youth” or the bass-bumping “Look at These Hoes,” there is no mistake that you’re listening to a Santigold record, no matter how diverse the sound or message. It’s the glory of being caught off-guard; of strapping in and letting her take you for a ride from beginning to end. It’s always a breath of fresh air.
Hear Here: Disparate Youth, Go!, The Keepers

1. Fiona Apple –The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Fiona-Apple-The-Idler-Wheel-album-cover-300x3001When Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel released back in June, I had a pretty good idea that the album would land in my Top 3 this year. As the months went by, I couldn’t shake or match that excitement. I praised it left and right in conversation, at live shows and here on the blog. What Apple accomplished tops anything else she’s ever done: it’s musically complex and puzzling, it’s terrifyingly honest, it’s dark. It’s everything we’ve ever come to love about Fiona Apple and her music, magnified. The album’s arrangements zig when you think they will zag. On first listen, the melodies are hard to grasp, yet they wash over you, leaving listeners with nothing to do but accept them and cling to them. Apple shows maturity here, both in her songwriting and her demeanor. She accepts her life as is without trying to make excuses. She’s come a long way from her “Criminal” days, and The Idler Wheel is Exhibit A, B, and C. Though it feels somewhat unsettling to listen to at times, it’s a sigh of relief that artists are still making music this interesting and this real.
Hear Here: Left Alone, Jonathan, Daredevil

Honorable Mentions: If I wasn’t such a lazy blogger, I’d expand this list to a Top 20. Here are some honorable mentions that I loved this year, but fell slightly short of the Top 10:

Mika – The Origin of Love
Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal
Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Bruno Mars – Unorthodox Jukebox
Nada Surf – The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy
Muse – The Second Law
Chairlift – Something
Green Day – Uno!

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Winslow Approved Listening: Fiona Apple’s ‘The Idler Wheel…’

Posted in Music on June 27th, 2012 by Nick

The “bad, bad girl” is back, and make no mistake: Fiona Apple has a lot to say. On The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, her fourth outing and first since 2005’s Extraordinary Machine, Apple struggles with inner torments inside her brain, a yearning to be left alone, and chilling viewpoints of failed relationships. The songstress grants us an all-access pass to her deepest, darkest secrets. And though listening to the record can feel bizarrely uncomfortable, like creeping in on a private therapy session, the album shines in every possible way: musically, lyrically, vocally, emotionally. Breaking her almost seven-year silence, Apple has once again delivered a beautiful and compelling work of art.

That said, the album is as puzzling as it is gratifying. A scorned woman simply sitting at a piano, this is not. Harps, marimbas, and timpanis add layers throughout, along with a litany of other rare instruments, and even a few that are almost definitely made up (truck stomper, anyone?). The arrangements are even wackier. The songs overcome you, unraveling erratically and wildly, unable to be caged. To truly hear it all, headphones and liner notes must be involved.

On the surface, this collection of songs is depressing as hell. Apple’s strength as an artist lies in making us feel her pain. The transference here is terrifying, yet her honesty and bravery are strangely soothing. But Apple is done with teenage angst. In place of sulking, she celebrates who she is and makes no excuses. In “Left Alone,” she sings: “How can I ask anyone to love me when all I do is beg to be left alone?” She shows vulnerability in “Every Single Night,” admitting: “I just want to feel everything.” On “Daredevil,” she takes introspective stock: “I guess I just must be a daredevil. I don’t feel anything until I smash it up…I may need a chaperone.”

But isn’t that what’s so great about her? She’s unbridled to the point of unease. The Idler Wheel isn’t easy to listen to, and it’s certainly not for everyone. Yet, rarely do we experience such forthcoming bravado and courageousness in the landscape of modern popular music. Wheel is the kind of album that must be applauded and heard now because it may be another seven years until Apple peeks her head out of her shell again.

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Fiona Apple Brings Fury to Brooklyn

Posted in Live Shows, Music on March 28th, 2012 by Nick

Standing five heads back from the stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg last Friday, I couldn’t help but reel over what I was experiencing. Fiona Apple graced the New York stage for the first time in six years and we were all witness to her rarity – like a strange bird that only flies through town once per decade. In retrospection, my mind is still exploding: A short-but-oh-so-sweet set mixed with older, beloved tracks and new hits-to-be, intensely delivered by a tortured artist bleeding her frustrations, anger, love, art and soul all over us.

As the sold out room waited in anticipation, Fiona took the stage at 9:45p.m. exactly. She nervously puttered up to the mic, looking a mess, and telling us she missed her dog. She discouraged some talkers in the crowd, and then promised that if we behaved, “I will give you everything I can possibly give you.” The next hour would then clue us in to just how sincere this statement really was.

Opening with an energetic and tight “Fast As You Can,” Apple worked out on-stage jitters through gritting teeth and clenched fists, setting the tone for the rest of the evening. Though a true professional, Apple’s body language sometimes spoke just as much as her words as she wiggled, writhed and danced, only to later seek shelter behind her piano to wait out the band’s final notes (she only sat at the piano twice, one of which was for new-track “Valentine,” a slower, piano-driven melody off the upcoming The Idler Wheel…)

Apple’s vocal control is unparalleled – her shaky vibrato is seemingly unbridled, but in reality, Apple maintains full control. As each song bled into the next, the emotion of each of those tracks lingered and snowballed for Apple on stage, as if she was re-experiencing the very moments in which the tunes were written. “Sleep to Dream” hit us fast and hard, raising the performance’s edge; during “Paper Bag,” her eyes were closed as she clutched her arms toward her chest, letting them uncertainly hang between herself and the audience.

Emotion exuded off of Apple throughout, slapping innocent bystanders in the face along the way. As the cheers grew louder and louder, Apple’s confidence rose higher, igniting the fervid atmosphere. Before we knew it, in one short hour, Fiona was finished. The crowd raised hell, more than earning an encore, yet Apple called it a night. Hopefully, her current mini-tour is just the tip of what’s to come, as the set’s lack of “Shadowboxer” was crushing for this writer.

Finally seeing Ms. Apple after well over a decade of fandom was incredibly surreal, yet almost exactly as anticipated. Her nervous ticks and rapid-fire banters may have led the way, but by show’s end, the crowd thanked her for all that she had given, showering her with love for her passion and dedication. Even with a new album on the horizon, this conflicted soul could walk away from the spotlight and the piano keys at any moment, and we all knew it. This realization made the experience at the Music Hall of Williamsburg even that much more special.

Check out a new track. Here’s “Anything We Want” – filmed at Bowery Ballroom on Monday:

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