Song of the Day #1,376: ‘To Your Love’ – Fiona Apple

Best Albums of the 90s – #2
When the Pawn… – Fiona Apple (1999)

The highest ranking sophomore album on this list, Fiona Apple’s When the Pawn… (the full title is a 90-word poem) totally caught me by surprise. I was a fan of Apple’s debut record, and had even seen her in concert opening for Counting Crows, but nothing on the first album prepared me for this one.

On her debut, Tidal, Apple’s voice was rich with a depth and maturity that belied her age, but many of her actual songs revealed her as the 19-year-old girl she was. She was tentative and prone to languid ballads that put her and her piano at center stage.

When the Pawn… was something very different. I remember my anticipation growing as I read rapturous reviews of the album before its release, but I never expected a record this powerful, confident, sexy or angry. Gone was the waif huddled over her piano in the corner. In her place was a fierce woman (all of 22 at this point) demonstrating songwriting prowess and a command of the studio that instantly put her on a level far above both her peers and legions of established artists.

This single album cemented Fiona Apple as one of my very favorite songwriters and my absolute favorite vocalist — ten songs, that’s all it took.

It doesn’t hurt that the album closes with a song — ‘I Know‘ — that may well be my favorite recording by anybody ever. If this album contained only that song it would still be in my top five.

But everything else on When the Pawn… is just as impressive. Every song contains some left-field turn or vocal flourish that takes my breath away. I don’t know if any other album I own is as rich or surprising.

Apple recently announced that her next album (her fourth) is due out in June. It, too, has a lengthy poem for a title, this time shortened to The Idler Wheel…. She’s no longer able to sneak up on me, but I fully expect her to pick up where she left off five years ago with the wonderful Extraordinary Machine.

However, I doubt anything she’ll record for the rest of her life will match the artistry of this record.

Here’s another speech you wish I’d swallow
Another cue for you to fold your ears
Another train of thought too hard to follow
Chugging along to the song that belongs to the shifting of gears

Please forgive me for my distance
The pain is evident in my existence
Please forgive for my distance
The shame is manifest in my resistance

To your love

I would’ve warned you, but really, what’s the point?
Caution could but rarely ever helps
Don’t be down when my demeanor tends to disappoint
It’s hard enough even trying to be civil to myself

Please forgive me for my distance
The pain is evident in my existence
Please forgive for my distance
The shame is manifest in my resistance

To your love

My derring-do allows me to
Dance the rigadoon around you
But by the time I’m close to you
I lose my desideratum and now you, so

Now you have it, so tell me baby what’s the word?
Am I your gal, or should I get out of town?
I just need to be reassured
Do you just deal it out
Or can you deal with all that I lay down?

Please forgive me, for my distance
The pain is evident in my existence
Please forgive me for my distance
The shame is manifest in my resistance

To your love

One thought on “Song of the Day #1,376: ‘To Your Love’ – Fiona Apple

  1. Dana says:

    I wouldn’t assume that she couldn’t top this album. Her songwriting and creativity seems to continually, albeit slowly, evolve. Of course, given her lack of overall productivity, if the next album does lay a big fat egg, it will be interesting to see if that knocks her down from the high perch upon which you have placed her as one of your favorite artists.

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