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Albums of the year: Fiona Apple and Dua Lipa

Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters

It was in early lockdown that slight recluse and music veteran Fiona Apple unleashed her fifth album – her first in eight years – upon the world. 

For many artists, the pandemic was a death-like blow to strategic, meticulous album releases that required a full lap of the late-night circuit and some well-chosen Live Lounge covers to fully thrive. Many were pushed back, giving artists time to regroup and understand how to move forward with albums made for a different time. But Apple, whose label wanted to push the release back to October, was convinced that Fetch the Bolt Cutters was to be a self-isolation album, one that simply wouldn’t require the fanfare and would instead accompany her fans through a strange time.

In her scaled back release in an odd year, Apple released an eclectic, multifaceted album, one that spanned every inch of the years that she had been gone. Heavily influenced by the era of MeToo and backed by household instruments from Apple’s own home, the album sprawls and lurches sporadically, filling up time with symbols and the sound of cutlery bashing together. It isn’t a necessarily easy listen; some would call it oppressive on unassuming ears. But it is fantastically new and unendingly interesting, each listen offering something you hadn’t noticed the last time around, perhaps proving correct Apple’s theory that this is the very epitome of a self-isolation album for a new age. 

Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia 

Sophomore albums don’t have the best reputation. Often, they engender a loss of autonomy for a young artist, whose initial success is capitalised on and their first album attempted to be replicated, often unsuccessfully and robotically. Their rights signed away, these twenty-somethings release something radio-ready but achingly bland. Dua Lipa, Britain’s almost-pop princess, built a slow and steady following with her first album, which caught fire on streaming services in mid-2017. Following its summery, poppy success, a successor in the shape of a summery, poppy LP would be expected. But instead, Lipa offered to the world an exciting, fresh catalogue that comprised some of the best pop of the year.

Filler and feature-free, Lipa diverts from what is expected – the pop of her past – instead producing an album both stream – worthy and interesting. It’s as exciting as it is mistimed: the listener is offered the ideal club soundtrack at the exact moment of a worldwide club closure. The effect is something whimsical: 40 minutes of never-stopping, sensory, glistening pop, which establishes Lipa as a star to contend with in the years to come. She grabs and runs with the idea of a forever – long party and, having already promised a 2021 – slated B -side, it is clear that Lipa is both here to stay and well-equipped to clench a pop crown that lies just inches from her reach. 

Image: Stephanie GA via Flickr