Monday, June 6, 2011

A Wave Of Strength: Fiona Apple's Debut Tidal Is The Best Freshman Album In Recent Memory!

The Good: Wonderful voice, Expert lyrics, Some powerful songs
The Bad: Instrumentally unimaginative
The Basics: Buy Tidal if you're sick of the garbage on the radio! This is something different, and more mature, than most people are ever exposed to!

Tidal is one of those albums that it's easy to come back to after a few years, listen to, and say "How did I not realize how great this was when I originally heard it?" Indeed, Tidal is an excellent debut for Fiona Apple the waifish siren who wrote each song on the album. I now consider Tidal to be the best debut album since Dar Williams' The Honesty Room (reviewed here!).

The writing here matters because it is superlative and Fiona's voice is easily one of the most disciplined in music today. Moreover, her range is impressive, from the dusty lows of "Sullen Girl" to the amazing sopranic chorus of "Never Is A Promise." Fiona's music has broad appeal to the teen market where depression reigns, but her music is adult, perhaps even older than her. She carries the depth of emotion of a person much more seasoned in the ways of love and loss than one would think given how young she was when she wrote and performed this album.

In fact the lines Fiona sings are pure poetry and they deserve to be read as much as heard. In "Never Is A Promise," Apple's lines progress emotively from insecurity to fear to confidence with a grace that is uncommon in music. "You say don't fear your dreams, It's easier than it seems," is a couplet from that poem and the truth is, Apple does not make pretty and easy rhymes. Instead, she's deeply meaningful and verbally powerful, putting substance well before style.

That's not to say the album is without commercial appeal. Indeed, the rocking "Criminal" is excellent and the air-friendly "Shadowboxer" has long-term appeal. It is difficult to come up with a weak link, trackwise for Tidal because most of the songs are well written and sound fine. The catch is the album as a total body of work. It doesn't take too many listens to realize that Fiona's amazing vocals are covering a distinct lack of imagination - or possibly ability - on the piano. She plays the same chords over and over again, making it very easy to mistake the tracks by music alone.

The writing is consistent and the songs are highly listenable and the darkness portrayed is very appealing to pretty much anyone with a heart. When she matures musically and can combine her voice and lyrics with a deserving variety of harmonizing instruments, Fiona Apple will naturally reach perfection. Her debut comes close, but she's not there yet!

The superlative track is "Never Is A Promise" and the weak link is "The First Taste."

For other powerful female voices, please check out my reviews of:
Timbre - Sophie B. Hawkins
Fearless Love - Melissa Etheridge
Live From The Milky Way - Heather Nova


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008, 2002 W.L .Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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