Tidal by Fiona Apple July 23, 1996
Piano Rock was and still is, a thing. Back in the mid-late 90’s it was a big thing. Local stations played piano rock from Ben Folds Five, and quite a few others. One artist that really stood out for me was none other than Fiona Apple. Sure, we’ve all heard Criminal at some point in our lives, but this album is more than just that.
Her deep and raspy vocals greet us on Sleep to Dream, which opens the album. So far, I like where this is going. Fiona talks more than she sings on this song, which from what I can tell is acceptable in piano rock. The instrumentation is nearly impeccable on Sullen Girl. There’s a jazzy air to this song and it wouldn’t be out of place in a piano bar. I really like her piano playing, it appears she can play any melody. Sullen Girl should have been a single, but record execs thought Shadowboxer would be a bigger song. Shadowboxer has a nice melody and the piano shines through. I get imagery of walking through New York’s Central Park when I hear this song.
Criminal, the big single off the album is the fourth track. I was living in Saint Louis when it hit the scene. Y98 and The River played it relentlessly. Based on this song alone, she could be considered a one hit wonder. I say that she isn’t, as a few of her songs made it to the radio. Slow Like Honey was the first single off the album, and it was heard but for a fleeting moment. Unlike Criminal, which showed her poppy side, Slow… is, well it’s a slow song. Her signature raspiness moves along with the slow melody of the piano. You could play this song at a dinner party, while everyone is sitting down to dine. I get a 60’s lounge vibe from this, but this is far from Space Age pop.
The First Taste was the other big single off the album. The song isn’t as accessible as Criminal, but it is still a great listen. The song has a poppy air and bounce to it. I hear a church bell and various other instrumentation. There’s a guitar and of course the piano. The record executives picked a decent track to be the other single. She’s quite talented. I will give her this. She ventures into underrated territory here. Never is a Promise opens with piano and strings. The string arrangement is nicely done. I could listen to this while reading and writing. Ms. Apple has impressed me.
The Child is Gone opens with a moderate rhythm and quickly establishes this is a poppier song than the others. She has a limited vocal range, as we’ve heard through this album. So far I like piano rock. Images of Manhattan flow through my mind, especially Greenwich Village. The song wouldn’t seem out of place if it were in an episode of Friends. Pale September follows and has a dark and mysterious air to it. Autumn is the theme here. There is a string arrangement and it backs her vocals. Paired, they make for a stunning track. Where has this been all my life?
Finally, the album closes with Carrion. This track is a poppier number and reminds me of Edgartown, a town on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Edgartown is what I like to call “Little Manhattan” as the New York socialites come to that island and spend their dollars there. Strings and guitars fill the end of the track along with the piano. This could be the hardest track on here. This, being her debut album could also be her strongest, but that opinion cannot be formed yet as I have not heard her other albums.
So, is Tidal shit?
Silly children! Tidal is far from being a shitty album. Every track captivated and held my interest. Piano rock should have been a bigger genre. Ms. Apple would feel right at home in a piano bar or lounge. Some songs gave me a 60’s vibe and that reminded me of the AMC series Mad Men. This is music to write a short story to. Hell, you can fall asleep to this; it has that effect. This album is underrated, and I don’t know too many folks who own it. She’s a treasure for sure and this album won’t be sitting for long, gathering dust. I spin it quite regularly.
Singles from Tidal:
Slow Like Honey
Never is a Promise
The First Taste
Sleep to Dream