review roundup

It’s Perfect 10’s Across the Board for Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple’s fifth studio album and her first since 2012’s The Idler Wheel, is free and uncompromising, the kind of art she has been positioning herself to make all along.” —Craig Jenkins, Vulture Photo: Gary Miller/Getty Images

Fiona Apple has swooped in to save the world, once again — this time from the monotony of quarantine by releasing her long-awaited new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, her first since 2012’s The Idler Wheel. The reclusive performer has built her career on her terms, telling Vulture’s Rachel Handler, “Although it’s not so important to me what happens because of this album, it is important to me the way I handle how I’m presented. In the past, so much stuff would happen that just wasn’t me. Which is excruciating, if the whole reason you were doing anything was to be understood in the first place, you know?” It’s served her well once again, with critics declaring Fetch the Bolt Cutters a masterpiece, a classic, and possibly her best album yet. At the very least, it’s garnered instant acclaim, including a number of five-star reviews and Pitchfork’s first perfect 10.0 in a decade; it’s also currently scored a rare 100 on Metacritic. But don’t just trust us, read the reviews below — and for the love of God, give the album a spin!

Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple’s fifth studio album and her first since 2012’s The Idler Wheel, is free and uncompromising, the kind of art she has been positioning herself to make all along. It’s stark and raw, absent the lush producers’ touches that seat the first two albums in the company of late-’90s indie-pop cognoscenti and the radio-friendly gloss of Extraordinary Machine.” —Craig Jenkins, Vulture

“Fiona Apple’s fifth record is unbound. No music has ever sounded quite like it … Where The Idler Wheel explored a form of self-interrogation — “I’m too hard to know,” she crooned — on Fetch the Bolt Cutters, she unapologetically indicts the world around her. And she rejects its oppressive logic in every note. The very sound of Fetch the Bolt Cutters dismantles patriarchal ideas: professionalism, smoothness, competition, perfection — aesthetic standards that are tools of capitalism, used to warp our senses of self.” —Jenn Pelly, Pitchfork

“Released with little warning nearly a decade after 2012’s The Idler Wheel …, the album sees the now-42-year-old songwriter proving that she’s still more than capable of telling off partners, detractors, and others who have done her wrong, all while picking apart the inner workings of her frantic mind. But what sets Bolt Cutters apart from its predecessors is that, for the first time, the scales tip more toward resilience than agony … Bolt Cutters is what happens when those outside influences that have crept behind her for her whole life are buried away, leaving a person to figure out what confidence or self-worth can be found away from the spotlight.” —Claire Shaffer, Rolling Stone

Fetch The Bolt Cutters is a delirious yawp of a record, a singular plunge into a whole galaxy of feelings. People are going to tell you that Fetch The Bolt Cutters is a percussive record, and that’s true, but that doesn’t get at the half of it. A lot of percussive music is built around the idea of dancing, of guiding and channeling the rhythms of the human body. Fetch The Bolt Cutters is not like that. Instead, Fetch The Bolt Cutters plays as a wild, feverish attempt to mirror the chaos that goes on in the human mind when it’s at its most overheated. It’s a freewheeling and explosive brain-chemistry record — a beautiful and terrifying thing.” —Tom Breihan, Stereogum

“Yet Bolt Cutters wouldn’t be the extraordinary experiment in aural and lyrical honesty that it is if it sounded too polished. The record is a missive from the mini-studio in Apple’s house to whatever confined space we’re stuck in these days, compelled as we are to spend a lot more time than usual in our own heads. It offers us a roadmap to understand who we are and make peace with who we have been; to take responsibility for our worst selves and protect our best ones; to come out of our ordeal stronger, wiser, but still self-critical. From Fiona’s lips to God’s ears: We’re gonna be fine.” —Judy Berman, Time

“The Apple of 2020 is astonishing; as if she has returned to reinvent sound — the rhythms pleasing, but counter, and unusual. … This seems not so much an album as a sudden glorious eruption; after eight long years, an urgent desire to be heard.” —Laura Barton, Guardian

“Her idiosyncratic song structures, full of sudden stops and lurching tempo changes, adhere to logic only she could explain, which forces you to listen as attentively as though a dear friend were bending your ear. … Basically, you’d need to go back to the later parts of Nina Simone’s catalog to find another pop vocalist as eager as Apple is to make such a show of unprettiness — a shared result, perhaps, of exiling oneself from a business you can’t stand.” —Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times

“Apple has always fought for what she believes in, despite the labels that consequently clung like magnets: ‘uncompromising,’ ‘crazy,’ ‘difficult.’ … Fetch The Bolt Cutters is the artist looking into the future and stating, not asking for, her demands. She released the record in April instead of October as suggested. She created the album art by hand. She even retained the background noise like laundry machine whirrs and the barking of her pit bull-boxer mix, Mercy. But more than that, this album is Apple sounding assured with where she’s at in life and wishing the same for anyone holding similarly toxic cards.” —Nina Corcoran, AV Club

“Indulgent only in the right ways, it might even be Apple’s best album. But as she says in one of the songs, “No love is like any other love, so it would be insane to make a comparison,” so maybe we’ll forget about rankings and just affirm that it is album-of-the-year contender material. Which is not to guarantee that it’ll be, like, popular; much of the material is challenging on first listen, and smoothness is a quality Apple consigns to criminals, not her own middle-period work. But damn, it’s good, in a rich and deep way that’ll have you reaching for headphones and a lyric sheet to rediscover different choice morsels in the coming weeks or months of this shared lockdown. It’s a musical food bank unto itself.” —Chris Willman, Variety

“But to focus only on Apple’s fervor misses the point. She’s cocked her eyebrow at society since her earliest recordings — recall the wisely weary lyrics of her early hit “Criminal.” On even the most intense moments of “Fetch,” her lyrics retain a playfulness that acts as a ballast. … She’s detailing the absurdities and horrors of her public and private worlds while being very much a part of them.” —Maura Johnston, Boston Globe

“This time there’s a more untamed fierceness in Apple’s voice, as she relays tales of feminism, abusive partners, the sacrifices of love and the dinner parties she won’t be quiet at. Unrefined sounds recorded in her LA home make for a visceral listening experience.” —Charlotte Krol, NME

“But if the Sullen Girl who stood in front of an audience of millions at the 1997 VMAs and flatly declared “This world is bulls—” is some two decades older and wiser now, there is nothing diminished about the fierceness of her presence on Fetch the Bolt Cutters, an album that feels both playful and urgent, melodic and chaotic, expansive and crammed with tiny definitive details.” —Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

“Her songs have the sinister drama of a Sondheim musical, the technique of a classical symphony played backwards, and the titanic power of a pop song. Named after a line uttered by Gillian Anderson in the BBC drama The FallFetch the Bolt Cutters is no different. Manic descants, discordant pianos and abrupt changes in time signature at once complement and compete with each other in a carefully crafted clatter. The melodies are wonderful. The lyrics, too — conversational yet precise.” —Alexandra Pollard, Independent

Critics Agree: Fiona Apple’s New Album Is an Instant Classic