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Fiona Apple – Tidal (1996)

January 24, 2014

[Album 281/1001]220px-Fiona_Apple_-_Tidal

Most difficult listening experience of the project thus far?  Probably Billie Holiday’s Lady in Satin.

On that late-career recording, Holiday’s voice was so frail, she sounded decades older than she actually was.

In terms of Actual age vs. Estimated age of a voice on a recording, Fiona Apple probably has an equivalent gap.  She was all of 18 years young when her debut record was released and much like Billie, she also sounds decades older.

The difference here?  There isn’t an ounce of struggle listening to Tidal.  It goes down smooth.

The second half of the album blends together somewhat (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and it had an Amanda Marshall-Beautiful Goodbye vibe at times.

The first half is where the magic happens.

One of the things I love exploring on Wikipedia is the order in which tracks from the album were released as singles.  It’s fascinating to look back at the decision-making.  Some lead single choices weren’t terribly surprising (Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough from Off The Wall), others, with the benefit of hindsight, are more baffling (The Girl is Mine from Thriller).

In Fiona’s case, the decision-makers did pick the strongest songs as singles (Shadowboxer, Sleep to Dream, and Criminal, chronologically) but I might have reversed the order of release.  Easy to say 18 years later of course, but Criminal just screams single.  Its irresistible groove, the deliciously dissonant chording, and the sultry vocals.  A great track, one of the finest female vocal performances I’ve heard.

These days, the mature-beyond-her-years voice of Lorde can be heard all over the radio.  They have very different styles but if you like that astonished feeling when you learn a singer’s age, you may love this debut from the head-turning-teenager of the 90s.

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From → 1990s

12 Comments
  1. I love “Paper Bag”. Great album.

  2. wait, that’s on a different album.

  3. I agree. All of her albums so far have been worth the listen–and countless re-listen.
    –JW

  4. Billie Holiday’s Lady in Satin would be a tough listen. recorded in 1958 and it would be her last album before she died. Gotta go back in time to find the real Billie Holiday. Nice Post

    • Absolutely.

      There’s something interesting about listening to some artists how their voices change over time (Joni Mitchell 1971 vs. now sound like two entirely different singers) but in Billie’s case it was more tragic than interesting.

  5. John John permalink

    For me Tidal is a passable debut for a 19 year old, but her voice, ambition lyrical abilities hadn’t fully matured. She also hadn’t been linked with the proper producers yet. Her succeeding three albums are imo far better with her latest release, The Idler Wheel, being probably the most difficult listen but also arguably the most masterful.

    • Admittedly, my Fiona Apple knowledge begins & ends with Tidal. Even though her commercial success peaked early, it’s encouraging to hear she’s one of those artists that keeps getting better.

      • John John permalink

        It’s unfortunate that so many only know Fiona through Tidal and in particular “Criminal”. The rest of her discography is why she’s one of the most acclaimed artists of her generation.

  6. I love this album. The melodies are weird and surprising, her voice is haunting, and its an album I can listen to time and time again, from beginning to end. As you mention, Geoff, her other albums are also great. Lana Del Rey’s stuff sometimes reminds me of Fiona, and in terms of music with a weird vibe, I also group Patrick Watson in there.

    • I’m only familiar with a bit from each of the others you mentioned – but if they’re mentioned along with Ms. Apple, I believe that makes them well worth exploring!

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  1. Fiona Apple “Tidal” | The Audible Stew

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