Posts Tagged ‘Fiona Apple’

Sharon Van Etten’s career since the release of her second album, 2010’s epic is well-known; critically lauded albums, films, and television shows have continually displayed her expanding artistry. Upon its release, epic laid a romantic melancholy over the gravel and dirt of heartbreak without one honest thought or feeling spared. Her songs covered betrayal, obsession, egotism, and all the other emotions we dislike in others and recognize in ourselves. Van Etten’s grounded and clenched vocals conveyed a sense of hope–the notion that beauty can arise from the worst of circumstances.


The resulting epic Ten is a double LP featuring the original album plus the new album of epic covers and reimagined artwork.

Epic” laid a romantic melancholy over the gravel and dirt of heartbreak without one honest thought or feeling spared. Her songs covered betrayal, obsession, egotism, and all the other emotions we dislike in others and recognize in ourselves. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of this special album’s release, and to acknowledge the convergence of Van Etten’s present and past work, she asked fellow artists she admired to participate in an expanded reissue, where each artist would cover one different song from epic in their own style.

Released April 16th, 2021

Fiona Apple

The music of Sharon Van Etten offers this strangely familiar ethic and aesthetic. She is Patti Smith finishing a pint of Pilsner as the pool cue cracks in the back of the dive bar. 

Van Etten’s newest release, “Epic Ten”, is unlike any other. In one sense, it’s a reissue of her 2010 sophomore record, Epic. But it’s also much more. The reissue includes covers of each song from the original release from such heavyweights as IDLESLucinda WilliamsCourtney Barnett, and Fiona Apple. In this way, “Epic Ten” is two albums at once in a compact 14 tracks, ranging in creative impact from Van Etten’s ghostly harmonies to IDLES’ industrial wallop. 

The record begins with the acoustic-propelled “A Crime.” The lyrics, saturated with anger and remorse, are also breathy, dreamy. But through the sonic lens of Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Big Red Machine, the song is more electric, like a Radiohead song played through a spotty AM radio connection in a beautiful contrast. “Peace Signs” harkens to ’90s rock ‘n’ roll, part Smashing Pumpkins, part Melissa Etheridge. All the while the kick drum bangs. When IDLES take hold on the record’s flip side, that kick portends guttural screams, an explosion. 

On “Save Yourself,” Van Etten sings over slide guitars. There’s a new eeriness to her voice now—she’s the last person in the Dust Bowl, and she has one last song to sing. Lucinda Williams understands this mood, she was once that person, too. And her rendition is elongated, patient, dark. By “Dsharpg,” Van Etten has become the breeze through cracked slats in the attic. She is the sound of one’s own personal church. Shamir laser focuses this vibe and offers a neon blue candle to pray to on his cover.

Mid-album track “Don’t Do It” is reflective. It’s a gritty electric guitar with an angel moaning in the distance. Van Etten is low-eyed, fed up at the heft while also acknowledging there are better days ahead. It’s bad, but not all bad. When sung by Courtney Barnett and Vagabon, the song is up front, close, in your ear. It’s as if Barnett doesn’t feel the song itself is enough at this point. 

On the album’s penultimate track, “One Day,” Van Etten seems to be remembering the important days now in her rearview mirror. It’s a song she might sing in the tour van, the rest of the band strumming guitars, playing tambourines as the highway stretches past. St. Panther takes the song in the direction of bedroom pop, made with a laptop and the buzz from caffeine at three in the morning.

“Love More” has a solid perspective—it’s the song of someone who’s accepted adulthood and the very personal ups and downs that inevitably come along with that. Friends leave, loved ones pass, but the strength to sing can still grow stronger. Though life is dangerous and dramatic, there is hope, if only borne from your own voice. Perhaps no one knows that better than Fiona Apple. For the one who told us to “fetch the bolt cutters,” fame has been painful. Growth out of that is the only medicine, escape. 

Sharon Van Etten’s “Epic Ten” anniversary reissue arrives on digital platforms tomorrow, and now she’s shared the final advance single: a cover of “Love More” by recent Grammy winner Fiona Apple.

The double-disc “Epic” reissue has already spawned several thrilling updates to old songs: Big Red Machine’s “A Crime”, IDLES’ “Peace Signs”, Shamir’s “Dsharpg”, and Courtney Barnett and Vagabon’s “Don’t Do It”. “Love More” is the closing track to both Epic and Epic Ten, and Fiona Apple puts her mark on the song right from the beginning with newly-added claps and hand drums. Where the original derived its atmospheric power from pulsing synths and the sparing use of percussion, Apple’s take comes with gentle pianos and insistent heartbeat drums.

In a statement, Van Etten wrote about the darkness that inspired “Love More”, and how Apple’s version reframes the song with “the hope it deserves.” She said,

“The emotional rawness and visceral angst and honesty of Fiona Apple’s music was first met by my teenage years, sharing a bedroom with my little sister — who so patiently studied for school as I tried to write, sing, and play guitar in a way I wasn’t ready for yet. Fiona made me want to be a better player. She made me want to have something to say. Although music has always been an important outlet for me, I knew I hadn’t lived like she had. Having no concept of age, I heard her voice as experienced and wise and someone that I wanted to be or to know. I carried her with me.⁣⁣

“The closest we came to meeting was when we played SXSW at Stubbs back to back in 2012 and I teenagerly posed in front of her road case. I dared not overstep the line of comfort at a festival… but her set was incredible. New, and true to herself and vulnerable…⁣⁣
⁣“Love More is the most revealing song about one of the hardest times in my life, and the mark of change. When I admitted I needed help. When I leaned on others and acknowledged my weaknesses, when I was accepted at my lowest of lows, with support, and was able to move on. I was in a dark place when I wrote this song, I was in a safer space when I was able to record it, and now that Fiona’s version will exist in this universe, it helps me feel even farther away from the darkness I had to experience in order to write this song. She brings it life and light. She has given me her hand after all these years… and it is with pure joy to finally share this song in a brand new light by someone I always wished I could be.⁣⁣

“Thank you, Fiona. I admire you so much and now I wish for everyone to hear this song with the hope it deserves. It is so nice to meet you. Xoxo”

In total, Van Etten’s reissue of Epic Ten is a success. She’s achieved the relighting of her past release while doing so with a fresh torch. With hope, the album will burn long and in many hearts.

You can listen to “Love More” below. Epic Ten makes its digital debut tomorrow, April 16th, with physical versions arriving June 11th via Ba Da Bing Records. Besides that, Van Etten will stream an Epic Ten documentary and full-album concert on April 16th and 17th, with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Los Angeles venue Zebulon.

Molly Sarl

Mountain Man have released a cover of Fiona Apple’s “Hot Knife,” the closing song from 2012’s The Idler Wheel…, as part of the band’s ongoing covers series. The folk trio have covered “Hot Knife” extensively on tour. The single, available via Nonesuch Records, below.

“If we followed Questlove’s advice and made gratitude lists before we went to bed every night, Fiona Apple would be at the top every time,” the band wrote in a press statement. “She tells the truth like no one else does. Thank you, Fiona Apple. We love you.”  “Hot Knife” has been a concert cover favourite, though this is the first time a recording has been released. The incantatory harmony is spare, while still evoking that long-ago concert sound of bodies crowded around a microphone. 

Last year, Mountain Man also covered Kacey Musgraves’ “Slow Burn.” The group has previously shared covers of songs by John Denver and Wilco, plus Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.”

Fiona Apple Performing

Fiona Apple covered The Waterboys’ “The Whole of the Moon” for the series finale of Showtime’s The Affair. She asked Tony Berg to produce the record. Tony called in Matt Chamberlain, Patrick Warren, Ethan Gruska, Wendy Melvoin, and Phoebe Bridgers. Fiona has worked often with Matt and Patrick and knew Ethan as the brother of her former bandmate, drummer, Barbara. This was the first time she had met Wendy and Phoebe and fell in love with both of them.

In a few hours they produced this beautiful rendition of a classic written by Mike Scott. After Mr. Scott (@ MikePuck) heard the performance he tweeted – “Prepare ye to receive goosebumps.” Fiona practiced the first take in a small vocal closet but when it came time for the main event, Tony moved Fiona into the big room where she had a great expanse to sing into. I tagged along with my new camera which I could barely work because I had forgotten my glasses – couldn’t see the buttons, couldn’t focus. Despite the crappy camera work of a blind photographer, the magic that is Fiona shines through.

This collaboration between Apple and Bridgers feels inevitable. Both “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” and “Punisher” became popular choices for everyone’s albums of the year, respectively, Both artists’ songs are known for having a vulnerable core along with a witty, cutting edge. Fans have fingers crossed that the two talented singer/songwriters will cross paths again in the future.

I hope you enjoy this captivating version of a sublime song. Drums – Matt Chamberlain Patrick Warren Bass – Wendy Melvoin Piano – Ethan Gruska Background Vocals – Phoebe Bridgers

Apple is not the first to take on the song; it’s been a popular one to cover. Other versions of “The Whole of the Moon” have been done by Jennifer Warnes, Mandy Moore and Terry Reid. Prince even covered the song live at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club during his 2014 Hit & Run tour, while U2 have also done it live as part of a medley with “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

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Fiona Apple re-issues her 1999 sophomore LP, “When the Pawn”…is getting its first-ever vinyl release. Available exclusively through subscription service Vinyl Me, Please, the album will be pressed on 180g black vinyl with new album art chosen by Apple herself. Records will start shipping in September. Check out the announcement below and learn more about the pressing and order a copy at Vinyl Me, Please.

Fiona Apple returned last month with her fifth album,Fetch the Bolt Cutters. She also gave a rare TV interview last month discussing the album and the inclusion of indigenous land acknowledgments in its credits.

It’s one of the best albums ever to never make it to vinyl, and today, that changes: Fiona Apple’s powerhouse sophomore album, When the Pawn…is finally available on vinyl. Released exclusively through the Vinyl Me, Please store, it comes on 180-gram black vinyl, and upon her request, worked closely with Fiona and her team to re-imagine the artwork for this album. It’s availablenow in the VMP store here, and sells for $34 for Vinyl Me, Please members, and $40 for non-members.


Fiona Apple “When The Pawn..”. This release comes on the heels of Fiona’s fifth LP, Fetch the Bolt Cutters dropping on color vinyl last week. When the Pawn originally came out in 1999, after a tumultuous time in the music press/Apple’s life, and its raw, beautiful sound stands in contrast to the other albums in her discography.

If you’re wondering about why the cover is different for this vinyl release, Apple talked about wanting to change the artwork to remove the cover art shot by her ex in a lengthy profile in the New Yorker, and we worked with her on this new cover. This first-ever vinyl edition is mastered under the supervision of Jon Brion. Let’s all listen to When the Pawn until it ships later this summer.

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For months now, Fiona Apple has been telling fans that a new album is coming. She teased a 2020 release date last fall, said she’d be ready “in a few months” back in January, and finally announced she’d completed the LP earlier this month. In an extensive and wide-ranging new interview with The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum, Fiona Apple shared details of her long-awaited new album. Apple has never been one to deliver approachable melodies or catchy choruses—she repeatedly serves us the abnormal, in all its twisted glory, with minor chords and off-kilter rhythms, often constructed with everyday objects rather than musical instruments. As a woman who lives mostly secluded from society and releases music so rarely, Fetch the Bolt Cutters is exactly what so many expected it to be: brilliant. In a surprise to probably no one, Fiona Apple is now five for five. Over the last 25 years, she has made five albums that have all—in due time—ascended to holy text status, even if it took some longer than others to come around to her genius. Her most recent, the staggeringly good The Idler Wheel… arrived in 2012. Before that: Extraordinary Machine, in 2005. But Apple isn’t just sitting on these songs during the long gaps between albums; she’s buffing them to perfection. Fetch the Bolt Cutters is finally here, and it’s another miraculous case of bottled lightning.

The record is called “Fetch the Bolt Cutters”, and it consists of 13 songs whose titles include “Newspaper,” “On I Go,” “The Drumset Is Gone,” “Rack of His,” “Kick Me Under the Table,” “Ladies,” “For Her,” “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,” “Shameka,” “Heavy Balloon,” and “I Want You to Love Me.”

In the profile, the new album is described as sounding “raw” and “percussion-heavy,” with a focus on drums, chants, and bells. Apple composed and recorded the album at home, handling production duties herself. Her band on the record includes drummer Amy Aileen Wood, bassist Sebastian Steinberg, and guitarist Davíd Garza. Steinberg notes that Apple was interested in recording her band “as an organism instead of an assemblage—something natural.” Garza adds, “It felt more like a sculpture being built than an album being made.” It can be difficult, at times, to make out what exactly she’s getting at in any given verse, but there’s an overwhelming sensation that what she’s singing is vastly important. In Fetch the Bolt Cutters’ case, these psalms beam clearer than ever before. “Evil is a relay sport when the one who’s burnt turns to pass the torch,” she offers on the characteristically enraged “Relay,” before whisper-singing an anecdote about a ferris wheel that comes across like a sequence from a horror film. In an even more brilliant couplet, she playfully sings, “I would beg to disagree / but begging disagrees with me” before adding, “Kick me under the table all you want / I won’t shut up” on “Under The Table,” a protest of bored, stuffy dinner parties everywhere—and the people who drag you to them: “I told you I didn’t want to go to this dinner / You know that I don’t go for those ones that you bother about,” she sings casually, “So when they say something that makes me start to simmer / That fancy wine won’t put this fire out.”

The album title is a reference to the British crime show The Fall starring Gillian Anderson; the phrase is uttered during a scene where a sex-crimes investigator finds a “locked door to a room where a girl has been tortured.” “Really, what it’s about is not being afraid to speak,” Apple says of the title. According to the piece, Apple considered using a sketch of Harvey Weinstein and his walker for the album cover.

On the bass-heavy (provided by Sebastian Steinberg, who cultivates ace bass, production and sometimes percussion throughout the record) title track, which benefits even more from Apple’s restless, spoken-word wisecracking, she literally meows before dropping a nod to Kate Bush: “I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill / Shoes that were not made for running up that hill / And I need to run up that hillI / I will, I will.” Borrowed from a line on British TV show The Fall, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is this album’s rallying cry, and, as it happens, a clairvoyantly apt one for our isolated moment, too: “Fetch the bolt cutters / I’ve been in here too long,” she sings over and over, like a prisoner who hasn’t seen the light of day for years (or, just like Apple herself, who willingly isolates herself all year long).

You might need to resist the urge to get totally lost in this album’s lyric sheet, because you don’t want to miss a sonic stroke of genius, either. Apple’s devotion to unexpected sounds remains steadfast: Pots (or, maybe baking sheets?) clatter against one another on the title track and the spooky “Newspaper”; cascading piano (one of Apple’s trademarks) takes center stage on “Shameika,” in which she recalls a childhood bully who poked fun at her “potential.” When Apple’s not singing her own backing vocals, or some choir isn’t chanting wildly in the periphery, the role usually goes to a dog (presumably from her own dog, Mercy, a pit bull/boxer mix?). On the album opener “I Want You To Love Me,” Apple sings “Time is elastic,” over staccato piano while she describes the kind of love that swallows you whole, akin to the passion she described on “Hot Knife” back in 2012. It’s all frantic and skittering before climaxing in an uncomfortable fit of Apple’s wimpers, forcing us to be beholden to whatever pain or evils she’s emoting so ferally.

On the complicated yet clearly #MeToo-inspired “For Her,” she manically chants, “Good morning!” before singing, “You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in.” Apple has always known just where to add extra punch to grab attention, but this isn’t for pure shock value: There are a multitude of layers to any one of her expressive fits or sermons.

While these songs ultimately capture not only a decade of Apple’s life, but also American life, they also feel classically timeless. The one that seems to elude era and description the most is “Ladies,” a word which Apple repeats drowsily throughout the song. Apple nearly ushers in a new wave of feminism with this verse alone: “Ruminations on the looming effects of the parallax view / The revolving door which keeps turning out more and more good women like you / Yet another woman to whom I won’t get through.” Another highlight is the brooding “Heavy Balloon,” in which she chants, “I spread like strawberries! / I climb like peas and beans!” like a deranged Joanna Newsom, complementing that line with, “We get dragged down, down to the same spot enough times in a row / The bottom begins to feel like the only safe place that you know.” It sounds like a searing protest slogan, but more than anything, Fiona Apple just sounds fed up with everything.

Elsewhere in the article, Apple discusses her relationships with Paul Thomas Anderson, Louis C.K., and Jonathan Ames. She also shares thoughts on her back catalouge (“That’s just a great album,” she says of When the Pawn) and her least favorite song she’s written (“Please Please Please” from 2005’s Extraordinary Machine).

Official audio Fiona Apple off her new album “Fetch the Bolt Cutters”

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Earlier this spring, Fiona Apple let loose some much pined-for information regarding her eagerly awaited new album, via an extensive interview with The New Yorker. The new record (with a still unannounced release date) is called “Fetch the Bolt Cutters”, taken from a Gillian Anderson quote. “Really, what it’s about is not being afraid to speak,” Apple said in the profile. As it turns out, Apple has never been afraid to speak throughout her 25-year career. She has repeatedly divulged and desecrated the rumors and gossip surrounding her public persona, but instead of doing so in the press, she usually prefers to address those matters in her music (except for the occasional, incredible public outburst, like her famed acceptance speech at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, or, more recently, her spur-of-the-moment interview with Vulture). But take away all the noise, all the speculations about what she’s up to and when she’ll release something next, and Fiona Apple is still one of the most innovative artists to have walked the earth in the last three decades.

After writing her debut album, “Tidal”, when she was 17, Fiona Apple was painted as an ingenue – but she dispelled any impressions that she was an innocent just as fast as she emerged. As a classically trained pianist, her acerbic,  songwriting nonetheless resists convention, pulling in off-kilter percussion and woodwind to explore the outer reaches of what might otherwise be reduced to “adult contemporary”. Her singular approach to rhythm and instrumentation sometimes verges on vaudeville. But she is best-loved for her lyrics (and her voice), betraying a self-knowledge – and sometimes a bitterness – beyond her years, and honesty sometimes to a fault. “When I have something to say, I’ll say it,” she has said. Apple was 19 when she released her debut album, after a demo tape wound up in the hands of producer Andrew Slater via his babysitter; it went on to go triple platinum.

She has released four near-perfect albums, and she continually pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a pop artist. These days, the 42-year-old rarely leaves her house in Venice Beach, Calif., but for those of us in the outside world, her music remains a sort of salve to the chaos that has unfolded since the most noteworthy moments of her career. In anticipation of the new music and celebration of what she has already accomplished, we took a look back at some of Fiona’s best songs.

You have to be careful with “Sleep to Dream,” because it unlocks unparalleled female energy. Rhythmic vocals act like an incantation over an aggressive drumbeat, which Apple punctuates with: “You say love is a hell you cannot bear, well then give me mine back and then go there, for all I care.” If you haven’t yelled those lyrics, you should give it a go. The chorus doesn’t let up the sentiment, though a string accompaniment does help put Apple (and us) in a triumphant posture above the righteous anger: “Don’t forget what I told you, don’t come around, I’ve got my own hell to raise.” The verse then goes right back into that tumbling, insistent, almost spoken-word declaration of brilliantly-crafted hard truths about someone you have been long ready to excise from your life. Do so! And then exalt, middle fingers in the air: “Just go back to the rock from under which you came, take the sorrow you gave and all the stakes you claimed … and don’t forget the blame!”

From the first few majestically unhinged notes to the devilish alto chorus of Fiona Apple’s biggest hit, “Criminal” is as masterful as anything in her discography—and she recorded it when she was just 19. The song recently made a buzzy and beautiful resurgence when Jennifer Lopez impeccably pole danced to it in the 2019 film Hustlers, but we didn’t need an immaculate strip-tease routine to remind us this song is just dripping in sexuality (but it is, truly, one of the most memorable moments in the movie, or any movie that came out last year, for that matter!).

The first two lines in the song are “I’ve been a bad, bad girl / I’ve been careless with a delicate man,” and while we don’t condone sex as a means of power manipulation, we do condone Fiona Apple clowning on any lousy guy she pleases. Ultimately, this song is about sex and love and good and bad and guilt and responsibility, but it could be about anything and we’d still listen to that honeyed-barrel-of-a-voice that Apple possesses and first wields remarkably well here.

There’s something so sensual about the consummation of a first kiss. For Fiona, it’s primal, an evolutionary truth marked by dominance and consumption. In a wonderland of keys, a dizzyingly repetitive piano chord competes with vibraphone, somehow growling with unexpected violence, and, for a moment, it feels so damn comforting to be caught in the rituals of first contact, as bestial and scary as they can be. It’s what Fiona excels at—a vulnerable reconstruction of patterns we all notice in ourselves. “The First Taste” is shocking even 20 years later in its brutal, fragile, undisguised perspective on sexuality. Fiona, as usual, is nervous but willing to burst our placid fantasies and expose them for what they are: a continual role play of a dangerous game.

Those Drums. Those Keys. The intensity of this song’s intro paired with a series of fast-talkin’ warnings gives “Fast As You Can” its overall feeling of urgency, something Fiona Apple has excelled at from “Tidal’s” rumbling lead-off track “Sleep to Dream” all the way to the see-sawing “Periphery” on “The Idler Wheel”. Released somewhere in the middle of Apple’s high-profile relationship with Paul Thomas Anderson, this song immediately fell victim to hearsay. It’s hard to listen to the song today without thinking about the Apple/PTA junction, a fiery partnership between two creators who never figured out how to tame the wild love that’s so acutely described in “When The Pawn”…The unwieldy, 90-word title of “When the Pawn” … is infamous, but Apple’s second album is a perfectly-formed whole, running the gamut from rage to regret in just under 45 minutes. Produced by Jon Brion, with artwork and videos by Anderson (Apple’s partner at the time), it featured Apple as sole songwriter on all 10 tracks, written following her fall from favour with the music industry. Apple met anticipation for her first new music in nearly a decade with her most stripped-back album yet: sparse and purposeful, with the electronic tilt to her past work notably absent. The Idler Wheel is almost a folk-country record, and finds the 34-year-old older, wiser and more ready to take responsibility for turbulence in her relationships than she had been in the past.

With When the Pawn …, she returned deliberately and defiantly, on her own terms. The lurching piano of opener On the Bound sets the tone, Apple breathing nimble smoke rings in the verse (“Hell don’t know my fury”) before erupting into flames with the chorus (“You’re all I need”). Through defiance (A Mistake, Limp) and desperation (To Your Love), she comes to something approaching acceptance with I Know, her voice bruised and beautiful over brushed drum and double bass.

The song is a perfect snapshot of those feelings, as well as a rousing anthem for anyone who’s ever felt tired and trapped in a relationship. Remove the gossip and noise from the equation, and it’s just a timeless banger—the best one Fiona Apple has ever released

The conflict of Fiona’s music often oscillates between what she wants and what she thinks is possible. “Never Is A Promise” finds safety in fatalism. At just 19, Fiona understands what she thinks to be her place, the order she can’t upset lest she never finds peace again (“I realize now what I am now too smart to mention to you”). Fiona’s writing can take a sinister turn at the drop of a hat, though—the girlishness of her pianos and violin can sour, adopting vicious grit in their too-loud, too-forceful delivery. Even when lost in a whorl of depression, Fiona is sober enough to point out the empty promises of empathy assured by lovers, family, strangers. It’s what makes her music eternally relatable; she’s unafraid to appear resentful for us, and live on in righteous spite.

This song’s title gives its mood away even before the somber keys do. It’s a downer, to be sure, but it doesn’t feel like useless spiraling. This is a productive sadness. Apple takes a few moments on her debut album to sulk and stare aimlessly ahead, having herself a metaphorical cleansing cry and a bout of self-pity before picking things back up again on the very next song, “Shadowboxer.” She says it best: “It’s calm under the waves / in the blue of my oblivion.” Sometimes a moody hiatus is just enough to get you feeling back to normal.

The most successful of Apple’s covers, of a stylish repertoire (mostly from live sets) taking in Sinatra and Hendrix, is her take on the Beatles’ Across the Universe, recorded for the Pleasantville soundtrack in 1998. Still her second-most-streamed track on Spotify behind Criminal, it is far from a deep cut, but her take on such a familiar (and – relatively for Apple – friendly) song foregrounds the molasses quality of her voice and her distinctive approach to instrumentation. The descending woodwinds after “nothing’s gonna change my world” are especially lovely.

Hardly prolific at the best of times (four albums in what will be 23 years in 2019) Fiona Apple’s last one, The Idler Wheel, (the short form of a full title that is 23 words long) is itself seven years old this year, which was also the gap between albums three and four.

With a rumbling piano-based start featuring Apple’s distinctive timbre, “Shadowboxer” moves along a soulful jazz rift as it describes the disorientation of a complicated relationship. There is naturally a lot of angst here, building alongside strings that enter hesitantly as the vocals turn accusatory. But like many of Apple’s best songs, all of this breaks through to a cathartic chorus, relaxing somewhat with the defiant and weary admission, “I’m a shadowboxer baby / I wanna be ready for what you do / And I’ve been swinging around me / ‘cause I don’t know when you’re gonna make your move.” You can feel the exasperation, especially when she leans into an emphasis on the vowels in “swinging” and “around,” which leaves a dizzying impression. “Shadowboxer” is a showcase of Apple’s vocal and emotional range, and a prime example of why her songs continue to resonate.

Katy Perry could never. Before there was ever a whimper of “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag?” Fiona Apple was singing this sweet and sultry song about a fleeting glimmer of papery hope. She sings the melody with a sly, Regina Spektor-ish curve—almost like a dark bar piano tune. But this is no cabaret solo. “Paper Bag” is, plainly, about one woman’s isolation in the wake of desolated relationship, one that crumbled because he was a weak “little boy” and she was “a mess he don’t wanna clean up.” But she hungers for him anyways, and the endless cycle of craving, satisfying, starving repeats itself once more.

The reclusive and sometimes emotionally-challenged Apple is known to write only when she wants to and when she feels she has something to say. Since “The Idler Wheel” she has limited herself to occasional film and advertising score writing, backing vocals, a one-off collaboration with Andrew Bird and occasional appearances at her local venue Largo, in Los Angeles  while she recovered from a digestive problem that had reduced her to a living skeleton.

“The Idler Wheel”…, Fiona Apple’s most recent album but released back in 2012, is full of strange and spooky soundscapes. The kooky vamping on “Periphery” may just be my favorite. Apple’s dedicated anthem to the fringes is a rare moment of lightheartedness on the record (or in any of her records, for that matter) and features shredding percussion and bouncing piano, but it’s still a biting shutdown in the end. “You let me down / I don’t even like you anymore at all,” Apple sings at one point. Even when she’s being silly, Fiona’s always working an ulterior motive.

Undoubtedly one of the most intensely sexual and purely thirsty songs in Fiona Apple’s catalogue (and that’s saying something), “Hot Knife” is a miraculously strange and uniquely specific rendering of sexual tension. The constant pit-patting of the booming timpani drum acts like a metronome as Apple repeats, with increasingly frantic energy, that same oily verse over and over: “If I’m butter, then he’s a hot knife.” Apple’s sister Maude eventually joins in with backing vocals, and they begin to sing in the round. Apple says what’s on her mind loud and clear over tip-toeing keys: “He excites me / Must be like the Genesis of Rhythm / I get feisty / Whenever I’m with him,” she sings. This Idler Wheel highlight remains one of the most memorable songs Apple has ever created.

The Idler Wheel… was Fiona’s third big comeback, and until the recent announcement of Fetch the Bolt Cutters, the longest period between her studio releases. Even after seven years, she still had it, releasing what is arguably her best album since Tidal. “Every Single Night,” the album’s sole single, twinkles with a childish fear, heralded by the equally delicate timbres of her frequently used marimba and a less used celesta, which is perhaps most recognizable on “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies.” Fiona’s description of her anxiety manifesting is detailed with razor-sharp precision (“These ideas of mine / Percolate the mind / Trickle down the spine / Swarm the belly, swelling to a blaze”), in direct juxtaposition against her heroic struggle against depression’s stagnancy. If Fiona’s music could be described by its characterization, she’d be a brave soul responding to her own cowardice. Her strength, in response to her knee-buckling fear, is laid bare by a central tenet, a refrain that could very well summarize her work up until this point: “I just wanna feel everything.”

Looking much healthier and happier now she made a series of fan videos in 2018 and in one of them revealed that she was working on new material. That’s the only clue we have but then The Idler Wheel was only disclosed in an off-the-cuff remark by the CEO of Epic Records shortly before its release. That’s how it is with Fiona. And as her fans know, she has history where album releases are concerned, having held back her third album, Extraordinary Machine, in a row over production standards.

After long delays, Apple’s third album made its inauspicious debut unfinished on file-sharing sites; it was officially released months later and named album of the year by many outlets. Co-producer Brian Kehew has said Apple’s lack of clear vision was one factor in the hold-up (along with a micromanaging record label), and that comes across in the finished product. “Extraordinary Machine” is Apple’s most experimental record, as well as the most sonically rich.

Maybe it’s just me, but “I could liken you to a werewolf” is Fiona’s cleverest use of wordplay to date. “Werewolf” is defiant all the way down, from Fiona’s subtle gestures to her own hand in her relationship’s failure (if he’s a werewolf, she’s a full moon: instigating, yet passive) to this plea, which seems like a convenient deflection: “Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key.” To prove her point, she does just that. Catharsis doesn’t have to end happily. Discordance can be just as satisfying, depending on the type of comfort you’re looking for.

Many songs throughout Fiona Apple’s discography could be described as hungry for something: sex, love, isolation, escape, revenge. The sonically busy, thematically cocksure “Limp” is perhaps most hungry for the truth. This unmistakable tale of a parter who can’t quit the gas-lighting game is consistently angry—and rightfully so. This “man” who Apple warns of throughout the song may have spent a considerable amount of time emotionally torturing her, but, before long, she’ll up and leave him with nothing but his own hand for pleasure: “It won’t be long till you’ll be lying limp in your own hands,” she spits with a vengeance. No one does rage and underhanded revenge with quite as much finesse as Fiona.

Just when you think you know what to expect from a Fiona Apple song, she goes and sounds off a church bell. The opening title track from Apple’s third album “Extraordinary Machine” sounds like both a deleted Norah Jones demo and a slapstick solo that might occur at the first half of Act II in a Broadway show (featuring most of the orchestra’s woodwinds, too). This album arrived after a long six-year intermission since 1999’s When The Pawn…, and as if to tease us for our impatience, Apple fills us in on what she was doing in the meantime right away: “I certainly haven’t been shopping for any new shows / And I certainly haven’t been spreading myself around,” she sings. As it turns out, these informational verses were only a harbinger of long waiting periods between albums to come. Fiona Apple mostly remains an unhurried recluse, but at least the wait’s always worth it.

“Extraordinary Machine” consists of some of the more subtle Fiona Apple songs—if there even is such a thing as a “subtle” Fiona Apple song. But “Please Please Please,” falling at number nine in the tracklisting on the 2005 release, is just what it sounds like: a plea, and a pretty non-straightforward one at that. It’s a kind of whirling, all-encompassing prayer, one that feels eerily timely right now in this age of separation and isolation. “Please please please / No more maladies / I’m so tired of crying / You’d think I was a siren,” Apple sings. Sound familiar? While this delightful song probably had something to do with Apple’s public image and her struggles surrounding it, now it just sounds like a coronavirus anthem: “Give us something familiar, something similar,” she goes on to sing. “To what we know already / That will keep us steady.” She had to be referring to binging sitcoms on Netflix during a pandemic, right? Obviously not, but it feels pretty dang clairvoyant.

Apple is recognised as one of the (possibly the) greatest musical and lyrical talents of her generation, certainly one who lays her soul bare more often, and more convincingly, than anyone else in popular music today, and one who knows exactly what performance art means. And yet she is still unknown to many. Having written songs since was she eight Apple is still only 41 though. There is time yet to put that right.

  • Tidal (1996)
  • When the Pawn… (1999)
  • Extraordinary Machine (2005)
  • The Idler Wheel… (2012)
  • Fetch the Bolt Cutters (2020)

Fiona Apple the Waterboys The Whole of the Moon the affair

Five years ago, Fiona Apple wrote and recorded “Container” as the opening theme to Showtime’s acclaimed series The Affair. With the show’s finale airing on Sunday, the singer-songwriter has returned to close out the series with a new cover of The Waterboys’ “The Whole of the Moon”.

The New York Times pointed out, The Waterboys’ 1985 original opened the episode, with Apple’s passionate vocal rendition playing during the closing credits. Take a listen to her version of “The Whole of the Moon” . Fans are still eagerly awaiting Apple’s next full-length album, which will serve as a follow-up to one of the best albums of the decade, way back in 2012’s The Idler Wheel… While she hopes to deliver the record in 2020, she has kept fans satiated by contributing to a handful of other soundtracks and collaborations this year. She covered the Beach Boysfor theEcho in the Canyon OST, and sang a Halloween song for a recent episode of Bob’s Burgers.

“The Whole of the Moon” by Fiona Apple was featured on the series finale of Showtime’s The Affair. The Original song by The Waterboys.

Fiona Apple – Vocals Wendy Melvoin – Guitar & Bass Matt Chamberlain – Drums Patrick Warren – Keyboards Ethan Gruska – Piano Phoebe Bridgers – Backing vocals

Fiona Apple’s album’s master tapes had been sitting in the vault at Sony without a vinyl release, The release of “Tidal” special vinyl, went into the process of making Tidal and getting it mastered by the guy who mastered the album when it was made in 1996.

When I’m strong like music / Slow like honey / Heavy with mood.”

For most men, hurting women isn’t a deliberate project. Often, it’s accidental, or even pure carelessness. Yet, I do not know a single woman who has not been hurt by a man. Neither do you. Insidious or thoughtless, it doesn’t really matter. There’s an ache that goes unspoken among all the women I know; the ache of the first male rejection, the initial understanding and loss of power, the wound that bleeds a lesson: The world does not consider you to be fully human. This goes double or even triple for women of color, queer women, and those coping with disabilities, other marginalized identities, and traumatic experiences. Most of us do not have words for it. Somehow, at just 17-years-old, Fiona Apple did. Her stunning debut album, Tidal diluted that ache and mixed it with moonlight, one part per thousand.

Why you need this classic record in your collection,

A classically trained pianist born in New York City to a family full of professional entertainers, Fiona Apple managed, with a little help from her friends, to get her 3-track demo into the hands of Sony Music executive Andrew Slater. Bowled over by the convergence of her piano prowess, astute song writing skills, emotional depth, and world-weary contralto, all of which belied her seventeen years of age, Slater signed Apple to his Clean Slate label, part of The WORK Group, a subsidiary label of Columbia Records. “I couldn’t believe [the demo] was written and sung by a 17-year-old,” a bemused Slater admitted to Billboard in June 1996. “It sounded like a 30 year-old singer who had written a lifetime’s worth of material. I thought someone was playing a joke on me.”

“Slow Like Honey” is the key for unlocking Tidal. No, it’s not as feisty as the thrilling opener, “Sleep To Dream,” the first song she ever wrote (at 14), and the one that is full of so much swagger that the foremost rapper of our era, Kanye West, cites her as an inspiration upon his own matchless self-confidence. “Honey” is stronger, simmering quiet in the sticky-sweet of seduction. Here, Fiona confidently takes back possession of her own sexuality, even if it’s only in her dreams. She becomes the instigator and seductress, the lingering, fascinating thought, an object of desire whose subjective demands must be followed. “The First Taste” quietly, carefully echoes these appetites: “I lay in an early bed / Thinking late thoughts / Waiting for the black to replace my blue”. Desire becomes so much trickier when it has been subsumed and stolen at such a young age. Trying to construct pleasure outside the undertones of pain requires a massive amount of imagination, an act of grace or God. “Slow Like Honey” is both. Coming just before these two, I hear “Criminal” — the album’s crowning commercial single for a reason — not, as often portrayed, as the confession of a bad slut, but the imagined inversion of her own trauma: What if I was the powerful one? And, what if she was? The world adored this narrative, as it will, embracing any excuse to cast a woman as the perpetrator and not the victim. Top 40 charts favour the temptress, but never “Me and A Gun” Only one of these songs portrays the sexual violence that is actually experienced by over half of the female population  “Criminal” is a magnificent fantasy. In some ways, it is comforting to cling to this side of the story. There is strength in mythic re-tellings, especially for survivors. A prevailing criticism of Tidal is that it’s “emotionally indulgent.” I disagree, but also wonder: Which emotions are the one that qualify as indulgences? Fiona’s emotions on Tidal are as tightly-coiled as cobras, they strike and retreat, they lose no ground.

I see pain in the eyes of women I’ve never met, and feel a kinship. There is pain in Fiona’s eyes on the extreme closeup that serves as the artwork of her debut. But she looks unafraid. She looks in control. When “Tidal” came out, I was already well-versed in the ways men would wield their power over me with the rather epic, careless abandon that only masculinity breeds. What I wasn’t familiar with, however, was the steely, determined resolve that Fiona — and many other women before and since had manufactured to process this trauma. Rage can be a weapon of defense when it is calm. One of the most sinister forces behind this seething and majestic record was Fiona’s rape at the age of twelve by a strange man who stalked her all the way inside her New York apartment building. His act of domestic terrorism took calculation, foresight and brutality, but still, he felt empowered to feed her a script of self-blame: “Next time don’t let strangers in,” an adult man told a child after he’d finished sexually assaulting her. Of course, we have no choice; the strangers are already inside, they’re the men and boys we love and trust, fathers and husbands, brothers and uncles. Many of them appear to to care about us. Until they don’t. Until they become strangers again. For every Fiona before and since — it’s not your fault that the child is gone.Even when disturbed and unhappy, Fiona treats her feelings with the utmost respect, delivering solemn disaffection and a languid self-loathing with the kind of reverence usually reserved for romance. Some of these songs were written in minutes, but none of them verge on hysteria. They are calculated summations of years spent aching.

“Rage can be a weapon of defense when it is calm.”

Fiona Apple was a classically-trained pianist from the age of eight, her father and mother, though never married and separated earlier on, were both professional performers. As a teenager, she finagled a three-song demo into the hands of producer Andrew Slater, who signed her almost immediately upon hearing her voice, began to manage her, and even produced Tidal. Her songs are vampy and confessional, heavy with mood, but there is nothing adolescent about the experiences recounted. Between Slater’s shepherding and the expertise of multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion on marimba, harp, vibraphone and more, Tidal pieced together teenage Fiona’s otherworldly song writing into the sleek ten-track album that defined her. Of course, it would also be the men who tied the tracks to an era; these songs would feel ancient if they weren’t occasionally soldered to the ‘90s. (Later on, when she was older, Fiona would mount a massive resistance to the overproduction on the early, leaked version of her 2005 album Extraordinary Machine.) Yet, a thing out of time is never as tender.

“Honestly, I’m not a very skilled pianist,” Apple admitted during a 1997 Keyboard magazine interview. “I can play my own stuff, obviously better than anyone else can, but as far as other music goes, I’m really not very good. It’s hard because…when we were making the album, Andy Slater was always saying, ‘No we have to take it back to what you wrote it on.  Back to the roots, that’s the only way it’s going to sound real.’ And the whole time I was saying ‘But I don’t want to play piano on this. I only wrote songs on the piano because it’s the only instrument I know. I don’t want this to be a fuckin’ piano album.’ But Andy kept saying, ‘No, this is how you sound. This is you.’”

In 1996 an interview in billboard that tells the story of Apple and Slater’s meeting and teases her debut, Tori Amos appears as the top of a box office grossing list, having just sold out Madison Square Garden. This was the world that welcomed Fiona with open arms, boosted her to sell three million copies of her debut, and turned her into a star, despite whatever reticence she may have had about celebrity. According to one strain of folklore surrounding the record, Fiona insisted that the name, “Tidal”, was taken in part because of its phonetic proximity to the funny emptiness of “Title.” But given the wild power of the thing that had come out her, she must have known this magnetism needed proper naming. What primeval force is more fitting than the tides to preside over such a magnificent airing out of wounds? Nothing is quite solid on Tidal anyway, and despite the ferocity, it is always a peaceful album, lapping like waves. The hypnotizing pull of these highs and lows make Tidal even easier to sink into; it is a record that swells and rages on an instinctual level. It remains one of the most important artistic distillations of female trauma because of the way she harnesses her pain, transforming it into a quiet source of power.

There’s little unrequited pining in Fiona’s version of the events, no matter how painful; “Shadowboxer” butterfly-floats above a stinging, out-and-out battle of wills, “Never Is A Promise” brooks no bitterness, though it’s disengagement is far from forgiving. Actually, most of the album occurs entirely in Fiona’s head; she is caught up in oblivion but remains focused on turning her hurt into something steadying and beautiful, still concerned with possibilities and potential outcomes. This is not indulgence, but a survival mechanism. On the album’s final two tracks, “Pale September” and “Carrion,” whose respective circumstances occupy very different ends of the emotional spectrum, she again commands and imagines the power she has over her partners. Poised even while candidly discussing most invasive and intimate events, her voice grows husky with rage on “Sullen Girl,” the track that confronts her assault head-on. She gives us the story, however cloaked the details may be, she gives us the full-throated vulnerability of coping, breaking, and mourning, in the process becoming one of the most self-aware female narrators of the ‘90s, or hell, in the entire history of rock.

Following the release of “Tidal”, Fiona Apple won the coveted VMA for Best New Artist, an award she wasn’t expecting. Instead of basking, she couldn’t help but continue to disrupt, urging her fans to ignore whatever picture perfect awards show narrative they’d just seen: “Go with yourself,” she commands, bug-eyed and nervous, entirely positive we don’t need her — or anyone else. Quietness won’t work here, so she screams into the night her infamous pronouncement — “This world is bullsh*t!” — pleading with us to believe her, a teenager in a fancy dress and long, loose curls, unconquered by a red carpet or some accolades. Her pain speaks a different language in public, but the grammar of empathy remains the same.It would be a relief if women did not have to create art out of pain so often, and if the work didn’t resonate so deeply whenever we are allowed to voice it freely.  “I’m strong like music,” Fiona sings at the end of “Slow Like Honey” a self-fulfilling prophecy for an audience of one that ended up resonating with millions. “I’m very thrilled that other people can get something out of my songs,”

Fiona Apple’s debut album “Tidal”, originally released July 23rd, 1996.

Andrew Bird & Fiona Apple

Andrew Bird has collaborated with Fiona Apple on the song “Left Hand Kisses,” its the second song he’s shared from his upcoming album Are You Serious after the rocking  “Capsized” “My inclination was to write a song about why I can’t write a simple love song. The song began as an internal dialogue,” Bird says of the track. “At first it was just my voice. Then another voice came creeping in and I thought ‘this should be a duet if I can find the right person.’ I needed to find someone really indicting. She was totally committed. The session was a long whiskey-fueled night — unhinged, for sure. All worth it, of course. I can’t write simple love songs. People are complex.” Man, a long whiskey-fueled night with Andrew Bird and Fiona Apple sounds incredible.