What’s eating Fiona Apple? You can read any amount of Elizabeth Wurtzel-style memoirs and theories about the modern-day fashion for very public self laceration looking for an answer, but it’s just plain old love that’s gnawing away at the supremely-gifted New York singer. Her best known album, When The Pawn . . . (the one with a Twitter-unfriendly 400 characters in the title), charted the breakup of her romance with director Paul Thomas Anderson. That was all of 13 years ago but now aged 34 Apple’s compulsion for picking obsessively at the threads of doomed romance hasn’t abated. The Idler Wheel . . . (another pithy title that) is about the end of her relationship with New York novelist Jonathan Ames, a writer who is similarly given to graphic unburdening of his emotions. “I just want to feel everything” Apple sings In a tremulous voice on opening track Every Single Night and proceeds to do just that on the next ten unhinged songs. On Valentine she is sorrowful: “I made it to a dinner date my teardrops seasoned every plate”; On Left Alone, which starts with tribal drums before racing piano kicks in like a fevered pulse, she’s contemptuous; and on the self-explanatory Jonathan she gets right to the marrow of the matter and sings through gritted, if not grinding, teeth. Apple is no longer working with Jon Brion, the master producer who gave her last two albums a lurid, carnivalesque atmosphere, but this leaner, meaner Apple sounds even more unbound as she uses the rattle of machinery, found sounds, and that menacing piano to amazing effect, However, it’s her voice that really compels as it goes from guttural roar to parched, piteous whine. Whether she’s feral, flighty or just plain furious, Fiona Apple is still an uneasy but rewarding listen. This is the sound of blood, tears and broken promises on the studio floor.

Alan Corr