Fiona Apple, it's fair to say, suffers for her art.

The awkwardly eccentric 34-year-old reportedly responded to record company delays in releasing her new album - her first since 2005's five-star Extraordinary Machine - by stress-walking up and down a hill so often she blew out her knees.

It's that kind of weird devotion to her craft, along with inserting real-life lovers into her songs, that allows Apple to deliver intensely personal and riveting albums and The Idler Wheel... (the full title is 23 words long) is no exception.

If anything, the New York singer-songwriter sounds more unhinged than ever on this collection of sparse piano ballads and diarised lyrics, especially during moments like the mid-song spiritual purging in Daredevil.


It's jarring stuff that, along with lyrics like "I don't feel anything until I smash it up", sends chills down the spine.

Her wild mood swings continue on the haunting gloominess of Werewolf, the native American chants of lullaby Every Single Night, and the dark piano strains of Jonathan (a track supposedly about her ex, Jonathan Ames).

"Don't let me ruin me," she sings during Left Alone. It's too late for that, but that's what gives her the ability to go to places other singer-songwriters can only dream of.

Stars: 5/5
Verdict: Eccentric singer gets emotional on unmissable new LP
Buy a copy of The Idler Wheel... here.

- TimeOut