Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel
Critic Score
Based on 29 reviews
2012 Ratings: #3 / 1095
Year End Rank: #5
User Score
2012 Ratings: #3
Liked by 121 people
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Stripped of all her carnivalesque accouterments, Fiona Apple remains as rich and compelling as she ever was, perhaps even more so.
A.V. Club

The Idler Wheel… is an innately private record, as Apple’s tend to be, but she has a way of drawing listeners in as she pushes them away, luring them, siren-like, into the maelstrom of her own reflection.

Pretty Much Amazing

After sixteen years, Apple has finally reached her megaton moment. The Idler Wheel is her ferocious eruption.

Entertainment Weekly

You have to give yourself over to The Idler Wheel in a way you probably haven’t done since you were a kid, before jobs and other adult responsibilities claimed the long hours you spent curled up by your stereo speakers. It isn’t easy listening. But it’s worth it.


Apple has quite cleverly developed musically in just the right way, creating something utterly distinct and different to her earlier work whilst still retaining all the characteristics that won fans over to begin with.


The Idler Wheel's spareness does lend it an insular loneliness, one that's divorced from the outside world while also being intimately in-tune with its basic realities.

Consequence of Sound

The Idler Wheel succeeds in creating a singular world more daring than any of Apple’s previous records and one of the most daring pop records in recent history.

Under The Radar

The Idler Wheel is Apple’s biggest statement yet, its textured, booming soundcapes finally living up to the conflict housed in her twisted poetry. It’s a tension that leaves the album swinging from the uncomfortable to the divine.

No Ripcord

The sparse, even unprompted production only makes it richer, resulting in a fascinating unanimity of piano and voice that turns more involving with every clink, clatter, and clap.


The Idler Wheel is an emotional thesis that cannot be ignored. It is perhaps the most unforgettable work of her career.

The Line of Best Fit
Her use of the piano as a physical instrument is unparalleled in popular music, owing more in terms of influence to Lazar Berman or Daniel Barenboim than any of her direct contemporaries.
On her fourth album and first full-length in seven years, she presents a stunning portrait of her interpersonal relationships that's more even-keeled than any of her past works.
The Needle Drop

On her first album in seven years, singer-songwriter Fiona refines her usual style into something simpler, but emotionally potent.

Coke Machine Glow

The Idler Wheel ... is Apple’s best work yet, spontaneous and so utterly unique, uninhibited and self-possessed in its sonics and language, risky and jarring, full of sharp turns yet encountering beauty everywhere, it feels like the first document to fully explore the depths of her talent.


She’s refining her outlook here, and The Idler Wheel… stands as her most concentrated and mature record yet.

Spectrum Culture

The Idler Wheel… is Apple’s most stripped down, musically simplistic album, but it’s no less heartfelt or harrowing for that.


Few vocalists can erase the distance between performer and listener as shrewdly as Apple can, and that toggle gives The Idler Wheel its strange power.

Beats Per Minute

Since there’s so little to grab onto, The Idler Wheel might be better understood as an emotional statement rather than a musical one.


The tension created by the lyrics and music is wonderful and uneasy, ensuring that ‘The Idler…’ is endlessly fascinating and unlike anything else you’re likely to hear this year. 

Tiny Mix Tapes

The Idler Wheel’s ramshackle, barely-holding-it-together aesthetic can’t be anything but carefully constructed, but in an artistic sense, that’s a virtue, not a vice.

The unexpected triumph lies not in the spectacle of the singer raw-dogging her emotions, but in her total command of the anarchy that results. The demons remain, but her talent prevails.
FACT Magazine

The Idler Wheel… is her most adult work yet, a record that’s underpinned by the fundamental grown-up characteristic of embracing one’s own ridiculous, stubborn dysfunction because, Hell, what other option is there?

American Songwriter
The degree of difficulty she is attempting is extremely high, yet the results are often startlingly good.
Slant Magazine

The Idler Wheel captures what’s made Apple one of the defining artists of her generation: a persona that’s reflected changing views of private versus public spheres.

The Guardian
It's an album that demands something of the listener, but rewards it in spades.
NOW Magazine

Thankfully, Apple’s return to music is not only undeniably powerful, but Idler is arguably her best work yet. It’s strange, raw and grabs your attention the way few modern albums can.

The Arts Desk

Not that Apple, on this work or any other, has ever been one to shy away from the messier parts of human emotion. Her wordplay may be complex, but the metaphors she employs are stunningly effective.

Rolling Stone

Sometimes the songs drag ... But Apple's kooky energy pushes through the slow spots.


Whipping Cords seems to require far too many listens to really reach that ‘viola!’ moment—sure to result in exhausted listeners who try desperately to love the record as much as they think they should

I listened 5 times in a row to prepare for the new album, and that definitely helped since this is way out of my lane of interest

Albums like this are VERY rewarding for being patient, and open minded. This album is a gentle, but powerful listen. It’s hard to really explain because I’m not used to loving this kind of shit so much
Fiona Apple is someone who's music i am not familiar with at all. i had very little to expect when coming into The Idler Wheel, other than general hope that i'd enjoy it. and wouldnt you know it, i do! i enjoy this album a lot! now this isnt normally the kind of music i listen to or review often, as usually singer-songwriter kinda folkier pop stuff just isnt my cup of tea. my ADHD attention span just cant fuckin pay attention long enough to appreciate a lot of slower, more ... read more
« I Root for You, I Love You »

It's as a complete neophyte that I talk to you about Fiona Apple's fourth opus, "The Idler Wheel". I won't bother to give you the story of the artist, learned late, it would be like rehashing Wikipedia... Let's be satisfied with this: with this record, Fiona is back after a 7-year absence, and her character is as strong as her life is messy.

With a production that she chose to make non-existent, Lady Apple has nowhere to hide, no big ... read more
The Proper 100 Followers Milestone Review

300th Rating

“The way I feel about music is that there is no right and wrong. Only true and false.”

Fiona Apple McAfee-Maggart is indubitably one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the past three decades. Her enticing brand of art/baroque pop has produced some of the most essential records in the genre and her nigh-unparalleled artistic vision has pushed the genre ... read more
When I think of musicians I admire the most, Fiona Apple immediately comes to mind. Since the age of seventeen, spanning four albums across twenty years, we've seen a young Fiona blossom into adulthood. Her music serving more as a continuation to each other as supposed to a the usual "follow up" in some aspects. Continuingly sharing and even admitting to her trauma, highs, lows, flaws and even just the petrifying thoughts that dwindle and keep her up late at night. So many artists ... read more
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Added on: April 2, 2012