During times of great stress and misfortune, cathartic release is effective in combating the troubles of the idle mind and the isolated soul.
One example of this concept at work is the adoption of the “finals howl” activity by many colleges and universities around the country, where the institutions encourage stressed students who may be overwhelmed with the pressure of finals to stand up or walk outside and join their peers in screaming and yelling as loudly as they possibly can in order to expend some of that stress in a healthy and cathartic manner.
Unfortunately, following the closing of many institutions and businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, running outside and screaming at the top of your lungs may cause more panic than stress-relief for those around you, considering the walk-on-eggshells anxiety that many Americans may be experiencing after a more than 90 day stint confined inside their homes.
Luckily, singer-songwriter and New York native Fiona Apple has manifested the prime example of what an effective cathartic release album should be by reminding us of the power of fervor and unrefined rawness, both in voice and instrumentation, with her fifth studio release: “Fetch The Bolt Cutters.”
As the title may imply, Fiona Apple’s “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” is a wild, thoughtfully unmastered explication of the thoughts and feelings of someone who is tired of being stagnant, and more importantly, someone in desperate need of the tools necessary to cut the chains and free herself from the physical and metaphorical restraints of life amidst the “big-19.”
Spanning 13 tracks, with a runtime right around an hour, Apple’s “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” holds listeners’ attention with lyrics full of love longing and loneliness: feelings that hit close to home all the time but especially now. However, what makes “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” so extraordinary is the way Fiona is able to perform, package, and present the songs.
Entirely recorded in Apple’s Los Angeles home, many of the songs, like the album’s opener “I Want You To Love Me” are mixed in a way that allow you to hear Apple’s voice crack and struggle: emphasizing the roughness and imperfections of both the singer’s voice and reflectively, the dire circumstances we find ourselves in today. If you close your eyes, it almost seems like she is performing the beautiful ballad-esque tune right there in your living room, emphasizing the notion that ‘we’re in this together, you and me.’
The main theme of the entire project comes to a head on the album’s title track. The song, “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” opens to the sound of the artist banging on pots and pans in her kitchen. Fiona doesn’t stop the intentional catharsis there. Around the song’s closing, listeners can clearly hear Apple’s dogs barking happily in the background alongside their dog-mommy’s eccentric notes.
As a whole, “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” is a message that sometimes — when you feel like you can’t put up with the stress of everything — it is possible to gain some relief by abandoning the status quo, the refined, the pretenders, and instead lean into the fray of things. Right now, we could all use some “bolt cutters” because we’ve “been in here too long.”