Album Review: Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters

Carissa Marques 

*Trigger Warning – themes of sexual assault

Fetch The Bolt Cutters is the fifth album by Fiona Apple McAfee-Maggart, professionally known as Fiona Apple. Apple’s music can be considered art-pop with a sprinkle of jazz. Best known for her sultry 1996 hit, “Criminal,” Apple’s voice is full of depth and emotion. In this newest album, listeners will hear tons of lovely piano progressions, jazzy bass lines and beats that sound like they’re being kept on pots and pans. Genius states the title, “was inspired by a scene in The Fall, where Gillian Anderson’s character says “fetch the bolt cutters” to the police in order to release a girl who has been tortured.” The album is about breaking free out of a bad situation, whether it be physical or a bad headspace. 

  1. I Want You To Love Me – The opening track of the album starts softly with a wonderful crescendo from the piano. Apple’s voice is smooth and raw throughout the progression of the song up until the very end where she lets her vocals run wild. The lyrics speak of being aware of one’s own existence and one’s connection with lovers of the past. In an interview with Vulture, Apple states, “The songs change who they’re about a lot,” so listeners can expect that the meaning of these songs can be applicable to all different kinds of relationships
  2. Shameika – A new favorite amongst fans, “Shemeika” is moody and powerful. The instruments sound a bit bluesy to me, but listeners will also hear warped factory-like noises in the background. Apple says the song is based on a girl from elementary school who told her she “had potential” and didn’t have to suck up to the “cool” crowd. 
  3. Fetch The Bolt Cutters – What I love about this album that’s especially prevalent in this song is the experimental sound. Background vocals are provided by Cara Delevingne, and dogs can even be heard barking in the background. Apple struggled with the way the media presented her throughout her early career. This song acts as a way to reclaim her identity, and paint her own self-portrait to the public. Apple states, “It’s about breaking out of whatever prison you’ve allowed yourself to live in, whether you built that prison for yourself or whether it was built around you and you just accepted it.” 
  4. Under The Table – This song opens with Apple singing acapella and smoothly transitions with strong chords being played on the piano. Apple sings of speaking out in front of people who would rather her keep her opinion to herself. My favorite line from this song that is frequently repeated would be, “I would beg to disagree, but begging disagrees with me.” It shows that she will not compromise her values or position in order to be heard. 
  5. Relay –  This song is so powerful because it talks about an experience so many women unfortunately have to go through – sexual assault. In an interview with Vulture, Apple states, “I wrote the line, “Evil is a relay sport, when the one you burn turns to pass the torch” when I was 15.” The song talks about how countless perpetrators get away with their actions, leaving women to deal with trauma on their own. I admire how Apple sings of overcoming feelings of hatred to those that have wronged her, specifically the man who assaulted her when she was a girl. Musically, this song has a soulful sound with a beat that reminds me of steady rain pouring. 
  6. Rack of His – This song is about pouring more effort into a relationship than one receives. I like the opening verse, “I gave you pictures and cards on non-holidays, and it wasn’t because I was bored,” because I too enjoy writing notes for people. I feel like little verses like that give listeners a deeper look into Apple’s personality, and what kind of things she does to those she cares about. The sound is sassy and jazzy, a fun song between two more powerful ones. 
  7. Newspaper – This is my favorite track on the album. I like the fact that it concentrates more on Apple’s vocals, as well as her sister’s, with just a very simple pattern of percussion in the background. The song is vulnerable and raw, showcasing Apple’s peacekeeping nature that tends to come more naturally to women. It talks about how men try to get in the way of relationships between women breaking bonds between friends. It’s a reminder that women should be there for each other since most of us can share feelings on the same troublesome experiences. 
  8. Ladies – This is an encouraging song after the previous one that plants the seed that women should be there for each other. Apple sings, “And no love is like any other love, so it would be insane to make a comparison with you.” This is a song for the ex’s next girlfriend, the person that comes after you. It stresses how women should not be competing against each other, but rather supporting each other through one another’s journeys. 
  9. Heavy Balloon – Another meaningful song filled with metaphors, “Heavy Balloons” is about dealing with depression. The sound of the song isn’t necessarily sad or depressing. It sounds like one of those songs you can just vibe to. Apple sings of the feelings of being weighed down while trying to show the rest of the world that you’re making progress. It’s the cycle that many go through, but Apple’s lyrics give hope that there’s a way out of the pattern. 
  10. Cosmonauts – This is an interesting take on a love song. It shows how long-term relationships are not always smooth sailing. Apple states her interpretation on marriage in an interview saying, “It’s going to be you and me in this little vessel by ourselves in space, except it’s going to weigh a lot more, and you’re going to really get on my nerves.” The weight of commitment can be frightening, but this song makes it feel lighter. 
  11. For Her – Like the title implies, this song is quite literally for another woman. It tells the story of a woman who realizes she’s been sexually assaulted. It’s an important message that so often goes overlooked by the media. The vocals are filled with pretty harmonies, and the overall sound of the song makes you want to scream the lyrics from the rooftops. It finishes with acapella harmonies. 
  12. Drumset – This song sounds soulful with vocals that are almost in spoken-word poetry form. It’s one of the less intense ones on the album, both musically and lyrically. It’s sort of like a form of venting where Apple sings her feelings after an argument with band members.
  13. On I Go  – The last track on the album leaves listeners with an ending of marching on. It’s a repetitive chant that Apple says she sang in jail, “I don’t remember exactly the meaning of the chant, but it’s fun to sing, and it means that feelings arise and fall away again, and it’s all impermanent.” There isn’t any piano in this song like there tends to be in most of the tracks, but listeners can hear what sounds like an electric violin, which is an interesting touch. 


I have to be honest, the first time I listened to this album all the way through I did like it as much as I did after reading all of the lyrics. Musically, it’s a bit different compared to what I normally listen to. The sound is overall jazzy and experimental. The message behind the album and each of the songs is so important though. It’s nice to have an album that screams “taking one’s power back”. Apple puts into words what so many people have a difficult time communicating. I would rate this album four out of five Spinnaker Sails. If you have the time to read her interview with Vulture, I would definitely look into that (it’s linked after a few of the songs). 

Standout Tracks 

“Shameika,” “Fetch The Bolt Cutters,” “Under The Table,” “Relay” and “Newspaper.”


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