99Xpress
October 1996
Sweet Sounds, Delicious Apple

Fiona Apple is only 18 years old. Which really does not matter, except that when listening to her debut recording Tidal, it may seem really difficult to believe. Possessing a dusky, expressive voice and a talent for nervy songwriting, she seems to have lived much more than her tender years would indicate.

While Apple will certainly be lumped in with the "angry young women" artists who are popping up more frequently than books by O.J. Simpson's lawyers, her debut recording really stands out from the pack. The music's backbone, supplied by Apple's bluesy piano, is ably abetted by a group of musicians sensitive to each song's particular needs. The music, which ranges from the jazzy "Slow Like Honey" to the driving first single "Shadowboxer," makes its point with an understated subtlety rare in today's bombastic alterna-pop universe.

And where does all this quiet intensity come from? Seemingly, from an unhappy adolescence. Apple describes her early teen years as a period of withdrawal, describing them in nerve-rattling detail on the song "Sullen Girl." The time surely was not wasted, as she obviously used it to hone her musical skills. She has yet to perform publicly, but as her stunning debut inevitably garners more critical acclaim, one can rest assured it will not be long before she hits the road.

Obviously, the work of a confident and self-possessed artist, it will be fascinating to watch the progress of Fiona Apple's career. Tidal is certainly an auspicious beginning for a fascinating new talent.

-Justin Robinson

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