Thursday, February 07, 2008

12 by Fiona Apple

Here' the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 6

Three albums in 12 years is hardly prolific, but no one can accuse Fiona Apple of not making each one count!

1. Sleep To Dream (from Tidal, 1996)
The initial shocking thing about Fiona for me was not her lyrics or her underwear, but her voice. So throaty and soulful, and all the more shocking for her big-eyed waifish looks.

2. Shadowboxer (from Tidal, 1996)
In some alternate or parallel reality this is a bonafide jazz standard.

3. Criminal (from Tidal, 1996)
Yes the dirty video brought it fame, but this was a rare case of the song being bigger and better than the hype.

4. Fast As You Can (from When The Pawn..., 1999)
Jon Brion brings his carnival atmosphere to Fiona's tales of woe. This is a sort of sequel to Criminal, basically saying, get out before I turn on you.

5. Limp (from When The Pawn..., 1999)
Fiona flips the script. She's the victim this time, and she's pissed. Great line: "You fondle my trigger then you blame my gun."

6. I Know (from When The Pawn..., 1999)
Featuring jazzy brushed drums, this is sort of a love song. A bruised one, toward a person who isn't readily available, but still a love song.

7. A Mistake (from When The Pawn..., 1999)
Nearly everybody has felt this way one time or another. There's something you know is going to be bad for you, but you rush headlong into it anyway. Fiona adds the appropriate level of defiance. "I'm gonna fuck it up again," she declares steadfastly.

8. Paper Bag (from When The Pawn..., 1999)
A throwback would-be showtune, once again about how much trouble she is. What's refreshing are the touches of humor: "He said, 'It's all in your head,' and I said 'So's everything' but he didn't get it."

9. Tymps (The Sick In The Head Song) (from Extraordinary Machine, 2006)
As strong as When The Pawn... was, there's more clarity on the songs from her follow-up. She grew up in the meantime. This is a perfect example, with Fiona showing some narrative distance. The clockwork strings are a great addition.

10. Better Version Of Me (from Extraordinary Machine, 2006)
Though there's definitely introspection here, one gets the idea that Apple was mostly just having fun with words, almost like a rapper. Witness: "I don't want a home, I'd ruin that / Home is where my habits have a habitat."

11. Extraordinary Machine (from Extraordinary Machine, 2006)
The full realization of the showtune tendencies she displayed on Paper Bag, this self-empowerment song desrves to have a musical built around it. And I sure dig the falsetto!

12. Waltz (Better Than Fine) (from Extraordinary Machine, 2006)
And thus, having sucessfuly conquered her demons, she danced off into the sunset (for now).


Allen L. said...

One of my late daughter's favorite songs was "Extraordinary Machine". Haunting. Can't listen to it to this day. One of about a dozen pieces of music I just can't listen to (she was 13). But it's times like this that I wish you were posting the mp3 because I would like to give that list a sample.

Richard said...

If I had that CD I don't know if I would EVER stop listening to it. Fantastic choices!