1999, Music

When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right (1999) by Fiona Apple

I could have sworn to you that I had heard this record before; I thought I had heard all of hers. But I went to check my old review and there was no review nor any rating. And that begs a question: did I listen to this and forget to review and or even rate it? (Unlikely.) Or is this set of songs so close to other Apple albums that I felt like I knew it already? (That isn’t good, right?)

This is a great set of songs. That’s what I thought before I realized I hadn’t heard it before. Now I have this sneaking suspicion that some of them sound too much like her other records (all of which I’ve heard). But this is neurotic, right? Why not just embrace a great set of songs from a great songwriter? They’re all catchy enough, they’re all interesting enough and her lyrics are good but also noticeably better – more mature, perhaps – than those on Tidal.

I really enjoy Apple as a performer – I like her voice, I like who she has (mostly) committed to piano at a time when that wasn’t particularly cool, and I like her approach to music. I don’t know who is most responsible for her arrangements – her, the producer, another musician, or all of them – but I always find her arrangements more interesting than they need to be. Her songs (almost) always have just enough quirk to take them to the next level. They’re good songs, but her idiosyncratic approach gives the listener more to handle, which is a good thing.

And I like the way this record sounds – it is not drowning in any of the music-wide cliches of the ’90s (except for one or two instances of funky drummer) and it’s free of most of the cliches associated with the rash of female singer-songwriters who were all over the place. In short, the record sounds like an album, not an album released in 1999. And that’s a good thing.

Honestly, it’s hard to find anything I don’t like about it, except this nagging feeling that maybe if I listened to her entire catalogue in order I would find this one lacking. But I’m not going to do that and, instead, enjoy it for what it is: excellent songs played and produced well.

9/10

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