So much has been said about Fiona Apple that it seems impossible to add anything more. With four Grammy-nominated albums, spanning genres of jazz, art pop and indie, fans have been waiting eight years for a new album. That day has finally come with “Fetch the Bolt Cutters.”
Released on April 17, 2020 and recorded in her Venice Beach house, the album has already garnered critical acclaim, with Pitchfork giving it the first perfect album score since Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” in 2010.
Within the heavy percussion sound, raw vocals and occasional dog bark, Apple describes the album’s central theme as “not being afraid to speak.” It’s a sentiment perfectly incorporated here as she rages against Brett Kavanaugh, invites her ex’s new girlfriend to her old things and calls out her childhood bullies.
Apple certainly holds nothing back in her songs centered around depression, jealousy, trauma, and resentment. More than that, she makes an effort to portray female relationships in a world that often tries to diminish them.
In “Shameika,” Apple describes a middle school classmate that tells her she has potential. It’s a detail that especially stands out to Apple, since middle school was when her relationships with other women were first messed up due to bullying, she told Vulture.
This relationship continued to struggle well into her adult life; in “Newspaper,” she sings to her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, saying “I watch him walk over, talk over you, be mean to you, and it makes me feel close to you.” Perhaps there is no better example of tricky female relationships than an ex’s girlfriend, and Apple illustrates this without fault.
It isn’t until the eighth song that we see these female connections being healed. In “Ladies,” Apple mourns for the women that have been pitted against her by men, specifically in cheating relationships. It’s a bit tongue in cheek, with Apple insisting “take it easy, when he leaves me, please be my guest to whatever I might’ve left in his kitchen cupboards.”
The intense emotions that define womanhood come to a bitter peak with “For Her,” a song inspired by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault accusations. “For Her” is deeply personal and includes echoing vocals of multiple women, showing the true solidarity and strength that they possess no matter the circumstances.
The messages can certainly feel weighty, but ultimately, Apple finds hope in each of them with her title track “Fetch the Bolt Cutters.” It’s a fight for freedom that unquestionably wins with this album. As she puts it in her Vulture interview,“The message in the whole record is just: Fetch the bolt cutters and get yourself out of the situation that you’re in — whatever it is that you don’t like.”