While Fiona Apple’s latest album The Idler Wheel… has been featuring heavily in album of the year discussions for months now, she has one more song to offer before the year comes to a close. In the vicious new song “Dull Tool,” recorded for the soundtrack for Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up follow-up This Is 40, Apple returns to deliver what would seem to be a strong contender for another honor: An Academy Award for Best Original Song.
“Dull Tool” starts off innocently enough, with Apple referencing a child’s game of hide-and-seek in the lyrics, and playing her latest of many fast-tumbling waltzes on the piano. Soon, however, producer Jon Brion unleashes an orchestra’s worth of mandolins, violins, electric guitars, and timpani, and a multi-tracked vocal from Apple begins a bombardment of her own, launching into a barrage of insults (“You don’t kiss when you kiss/ You don’t fuck when you fuck…”).
Lyrically, the new song seems to be a painful sequel to “Hot Knife,” the closer from Apple’s last album. While that song reveled in the erotic charge of a new love (“If I’m butter, then he’s a hot knife”), this song warns of the dangers of a love turned sour: “You’re more likely to get cut with a dull tool than a sharp one.” Musically, it’s a sequel to Apple’s previous albums with Brion—their last collaboration was infamously delayed by the label for years and never released in its original form. Even the mandolin has the distinctive sound of virtuoso mandolinist and Brion collaborator Chris Thile.
The rest of the soundtrack will also be produced by Brion in conjunction with a score from him and Graham Parker. It will also feature new music from Norah Jones and Lindsey Buckingham, in addition to previously released tracks from Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Wilco, and more. The soundtrack will be out December 11, followed by the movie’s release on December 21.