Fiona Apple Having a Fight With Her Brain!

All of Fiona Apple's albums have been been personal and confessional (some might say "self absorbed") but this one is really personal and confessional and attractively self-absorbed too.

She takes on her demons with spunk and determination, not pity and she does it with humor and wry detachment— other than when an uncomfortable realization has her shrieking. "Every single night's a fight with my brain!"she spiritedly exclaims on "Every Single Night," the album opener that sets the standard for all nine songs.

The album title alerts you to one chatty gal who's not afraid to pile a lot of words into small musical spaces. None are wasted though, nor are the notes that carry forward the words. Every musical gesture rings both original and true.

"How can I ask anyone to love me?" she sings In "Left Alone," a song in which she bemoans her interpersonal isolation, "when all I do is beg to be left alone."

Apple can write melodically and she does so here when she so desires, but this record is not just built upon a percussive underpinning, it's percussive to its core and that is what drives the melodic construction throughout side one. The rhythms are complex, mutable and often jazzy.

Side two almost serves as the release for side one's night of torment. The pace is slower, (until the closer "Hot Knife" where she gears up for her next object of desire) the melodic lines given more space to develop. On the opener "Werewolf", she blames for a break-up both herself and the guy she likens to a the predator:

I could liken you to a werewolf the way you left me for dead But I admit that I provided a full moon And I could liken you to a shark the way you bit off my head But then again I was waving around a bleeding, open wound

You could spend a week's entertainment listening to the relentlessly original and surprising percussive backdrop without paying attention to the lyrics or without assembling the sometimes difficult and jumpy melodic constructs. You definitely won't finish your first play by saying "I've heard this all before," because you've heard none of it before.

The recording will not set your analog heart a-flutter but it's superbly rendered digitally. Apple's voice is immediately and dryly rendered, which helps give it intimacy. Most of the time it's left in a natural state and only occasionally processed and when that's done it's always with a purpose.

Every note on this compactly arranged and produced album feels as if it has great purpose. As does every effect, as when Apple's voice pans across the stage during "Valentine," a song in which she talks about self-mutilation.

Apple produced and she plays the studio as effectively as she plays piano. Every percussive sound has great clarity and each is placed precisely in three-dimensional space. This is an album produced to be listened to in the foreground. It's wasted in the background. The more attention you pay to the inner details the greater the rewards. Apple's credits on the album include "Field recording, loop maker/performer...daredevil-thighs (that you will hear her slap), celeste, tympani, art (cover and full color insert) and bass keyboard."

The 180g pressing, perhaps at URP, was reasonably quiet but not without a few "issues" both physical and sonic.

Perhaps not an easy listen at first, but those kinds of albums rarely stand up over time.

thebambino's picture

Seeing her live at Kleinhaus Music Hall in Buffalo on 10/9, hoping the sound of her piano in an orchestral setting will be nice..

morserotonin's picture

as well as Soley's album "We Sink". Both are well produced, beautifully written and engaging. Neither are the best pressings but the music is exceptional.