Monday, September 10, 2012

Holidaying to the sweet sounds of Fiona Apple

The year is 1959. I am wearing a long, champagne strapless dress. My hair sits on my shoulders in soft finger waves. The room is filled with people, talking and drinking. Somewhere in the background, a woman is singing... the more I concentrate on her voice, the louder she becomes. Someone asks me to dance. He holds my hand and guides me to the middle of the room. We twirl gently across the floor. Everything seems infinitely beautiful. I place my head gently on his shoulder and disappear into the moment...

The year is actually 2012 and I am lying on my bed in the winter sun. The hauntingly beautiful voice belongs to Fiona Apple and like with everything else I absolutely adore, she carries me away to a time I wish I lived in. The song she is singing is an old classic: Why try to change me now? She is doing it as part of the 2009 tribute to Cy Coleman. It is a song that has the remarkable ability to make me feel peaceful and happy and at the same time, make my heart race. 

After a seven year hiatus, Apple's new album The Idler Wheel... released in August proves once and for all that she has the kind of talent that transcends time, that makes her relevant even though so much has changed in the industry since her last.

Apple first rose to fame in 1996 with her album Tidal. She was awarded a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the song Criminal in 1998 from the same album. For those of you who saw and remember the music video, you will know that Apple was never afraid of being controversial. Whilst I do severely judge artists who resort to almost nudity to sell albums (basically everyone these days...), I have to put the judgement aside for artists like Apple. Artists with the rare ability to just sing a song and somehow, find that little place inside you that makes you never want to listen to anything else ever again.

Apple has two other albums to her name, however none were more commercially successful than her first. She has however managed to cement a solid fan base that keeps her records relatively successful. The artist was plagued with the highs and lows of the entertainment industry as most stars are. This included public speculation about an eating disorder and an on-stage 'meltdown'. Her personal life has always been something of a mystery though she revealed this year in an interview that she had been married to a French photographer very briefly 'for complicated reasons'.

To her credit, Apple is the creative mind behind most of her work and has remained throughout her career loyal to her own image. Despite the long gaps between her albums ('96, '99, '05, '12) Apple has released many other bits of music here and there - collaborations and efforts for charities included. Her songs, unlike so many other artists, did not descend into commercial banter once she achieved success. Furthermore, her latest album in comparison to the last shows an extreme amount of growth.

The last album moved between her piano-driven jazz and indie rock to more rhythm based music whereas the latest consists of little more than her piano and Charles Drayton's abstract percussion. The album is stark, almost confessional. A risky move but one that pays off enormously.

The album challenges listeners to connect with feelings that we so often shy away from and feelings which sometimes artists bury in lyrics and melodies. Apple has managed to record in one album all the mixed emotions involved in a relationship slowly falling apart or a broken relationship attempting to hold on. My favourite, although the simplest song in terms of musicality, is Werewolf. Apple admits that romantic fall outs are not always a bad thing especially if you were failing as a couple. I imagine the song is saying, it's okay to let go, not everything works out. "We can still support each other/All we gotta do is avoid each other/ Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key."

Apple's album carries a certain element of reality that other music shies away from: the reality that we're mostly confused and very often contradicting ourselves. “How can I ask anyone to love me/When all I do is beg to be left alone.” And that we're all more or less just muddling through life... 

“Every single night’s a fight/With my brain... /I just want to feel everything.”

This won't be the last time we hear from Fiona Apple. I imagine she still has a lot more to say.

Fiona Apple (Souce: Interview Magazine)

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