Following 2005's Extraordinary Machine, Fiona Apple waited seven years before releasing her new album, the verbosely titled, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.
After such a significant absence, Apple is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, with The Idler Wheel earning rave reviews. The Los Angeles Times called it "essential 2012 listening" and the album has a 90 rating on Metacritic.
For all the admiration being extolled upon Apple, Idler Wheel is easily her most insular work yet. The album's ten songs contain spare piano, an emphasis on light textures rather than overbearing pop structures, and a general impression that the singer/songwriter is back from the wilderness just for a while, content to leave the spotlight at any moment.
Idler Wheel is popular with the masses, too. The deluxe and standard editions of the album ranked on iTunes' album charts at #4 and #7, respectively, as of Thursday.
Apple's success leads to questions about listener/artist relationships:
- How long is too long to wait between albums?
- Does a seven year absence make this a "comeback" for Apple?
- What artists have you been waiting to release new material?
- Who should stop trying?
With all of the attention surrounding Michael Jackson's untimely death in 2009, it was easy to forget that his last album of original material, 2001's Invincible, was largely panned. Coming out six years after the release of his modestly received greatest hits/new material compilation HIStory, Invincible got even worse reviews than that collection, with New York Magazine calling it an "assembly-line bore."
Invincible's enduring influence has been felt within pop music, however, with the fingerprints of a futuristic electro-pop track like Jackson's Unbreakable" all over work by The Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry.
- Did Jackson raise expectations to an unbearably high degree during his six year absence?
- Or were listeners generally turned off by allegations regarding his personal life?
Jackson was a notorious perfectionist and his passing assured that any music released after his death would not undergo his meticulous standards for quality control.
Guns 'N Roses
In a recent episode of music interview podcast Low Times, host Tom Scharpling and Vampire Weekend singer/guitarist Ezra Koenig discussed the amount of time certain artists will put into writing and recording music, with Scharpling asking Koenig, "Do you kind of see how people can go crazy...making music?"
Koenig cited Guns 'N Roses leader Axl Rose as an example of someone who "wanted to make something that was really good."
Koenig went on to say that the fifteen years it took Rose to release GNR's latest album Chinese Democracy was a "kind of insane amount of time."
- For all of the care Rose took in putting together Chinese Democracy, who is a fan of that record?
- Were champions of "Welcome to the Jungle" and "November Rain" still around to listen to Democracy a decade and a half after GNR's heyday?
Those are just a few examples of artists who took a great deal of time between albums. What are some examples of bands you're waiting to put out a new album? Who are some that waited too long?