I found that this was the week I found myself thinking about the “before times” a lot more. Just the experience of what it used to be like to go out to restaurants and see movies and hang out with friends without being their inadvertent murderer by way of an infectious virus. I know we’re still at least weeks away from any sort of transition towards normalcy, but it does feel like we’re on the verge of slowly walking down the mountain of sadness that this whole period has been rather than constantly ascending it.
Considering this week marked the release of a new Fiona Apple — a momentous event in Colin’s world — I’ll probably struggle to talk about much else. So just bear with me while I pick through the initial thoughts I’ve cultivated since the album came out on Friday.
Unsurprisingly, when I woke up on Friday morning, I was pretty excited to sink my ears into a new Fiona Apple album. Her last album, 2012’s The Idler Wheel was one of my favorite albums of the 2010s as well as the gateway album that got me into being a fan of this singular talent. I was probably expecting the album to be well-received, though I was not expecting it to be the first album Pitchfork gave a 10.0 review to since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I kind of wish I hadn’t been aware of this fact (or the album’s other rapturous reviews) before my first listen, but oh well. I knew it would be good anyways, it’s just that such high expectations can easily get in the way of enjoying a work of art in an organic way.
So has the album lived up to these expectations I had for it? For now, I’d say yes. Definitely. It once again sees Apple becoming more wild and uncompromising in her pursuit of making the most emotionally honest pop music imaginable, while growing into a sound that is as odd as it is riveting. It also has to be noted that much like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, this album feels like it was released at exactly the right time. Ever since breaking out in the late ’90s, Fiona Apple has seemed to retreat more and more from public life and in the process exercise her own form of social distancing. Fetch The Bolt Cutters feels like a distinct product of that, as it was mostly recorded at Fiona’s home, while it’s makeshift percussion and hermetic wit makes the music perfect for people who have spent the past month at home.
Since I’ve been so jazzed about Fetch The Bolt Cutters’ release, I didn’t feel much desire to listen to any other artists this weekend. So, naturally, I went back and listened to Fiona Apple’s other 4 albums. It is a little hard for me to gauge whether her latest album is the best one yet, because all of her albums are at about the same level of greatness. Listening back to her early albums, other than the much more lush and traditionally pop production, it is interesting how much more uptempo her songs have gotten. She truly was a master of melancholy on 1999’s When The Pawn and 2005’s Extraordinary Machine, while a lot of these songs seem to be these anguished portraits of the internal ravages that selfish men reek. They’re certainly indebted to the signature sound of producer Jon Brion, but at the same time show an artist who’s willing to reconstruct the pop song while also writing something as classic-sounding as “Paper Bag”.
After rewatching A Hard Day’s Night and Josie And The Pussycats last week, Tom Hanks’ directorial debut That Thing You Do! seemed like the logical next step. Additionally, the film (unfortunately) is the intersection of a coronavirus survivor in Tom Hanks and someone who wasn’t so lucky in Adam Schlesinger, who penned the movie’s titular song. I’m not sure I gleaned much from revisiting this movie, since as I remembered, it’s a little slight, but awfully charming. Hanks’ affection and attention to detail for the period keeps it from ever feeling like typical boomer-baiting nonsense, while the young cast is pretty delightful (especially Steve Zahn, who always manages to walk a fine line between fun and annoying).
Since I didn’t have anything better to do on Saturday night, I tuned into most of this TV music special that Lady Gaga put together, which was host by Stephen Colbert and the two late night Jimmys. And like most specials of this sort, it was… well, mildly pleasing. It goes without saying that artists playing their piano or guitar at home alone into their computer cameras isn’t going to be the greatest musical performance you’ve ever seen. Still, there was something a little comforting about seeing these millionaires going through the same isolation that we’re all going through and telling us everything’s gonna be ok. I think the most notable moment for me was The Rolling Stones all playing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” from their four respective homes. Not because it was a great performance or anything (though Mick still sounds good these days), but more because it was a little bit off, but not quite off enough to sound unlistenable. Ah, the woes of Skype of life.