One of the most underrated musicians of my generation is Fiona Apple. She blew onto the scene in 1996, a flurry of melancholic ingenuity and other buzz words. She was a hit with her song "Criminal", though it's a woefully inappropriate song to represent her career. Like so many female artists of the 1990s, she was painted with a broad angsty stroke, her own song "Sullen Girl" not at all helpful to her or her contemporaries.
While she is introspective and typically-emotive, she's also a master of language, rhythm, melody and structure. Her voice is smokey and strong, her phrasing thoughtful and so telling. Every breath and note of her three albums is so purposeful, even the length of silence between tracks a decision.
From her debut (Tidal, 1996) to her brilliant sophomore album (When the Pawn, 1999) to her latest (Extraordinary Machine, 2003) she leaves me wanting more. There's talk she's back in the studio now, finally, preparing new music.
Apple says she knows she has a finished album when ten songs are done. So here are ten of my favourites, which I hope become important to you too. Listen carefully 3 minutes and 50 seconds into "I Know" for the greatest moment in her recorded career (if I may) when she channels Judy Garland and writes the most beautiful, restrained, unfinished lyric: "And if it gets too late for me to wait, for you to find you love me, and tell me so, it's okay, you don't need to say it."
The Quintessential Fiona Apple
1. Used to Love Him
2. Not About Love
3. Paper Bag
4. Slow Like Honey
5. Get Him Back
6. The Way Things Are
7. Parting Gift
8. Never is a Promise
9. Oh Well
10. I Know
Note: To keep the songs in this order (which you should do!) select all the files in the folder and then drag them into a New Playlist you've created in iTunes.
Head to the iTunes store to snag her catalogue. You will not regret it.