10 Songs, 42 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

When the Pawn … could be an object lesson in how to turn volatility into art. For anyone who was expecting another set of histrionic piano ballads from the poster girl for emotional drama, Fiona Apple’s second release must have come as a surprise. Oh, it still sounds dandy through headphones at the dorm, but When the Pawn … counters post-adolescent angst with impeccable songcraft, clever, complicated arrangements, and most of all, a rueful self-awareness — heck, a sense of humor, even. “I’m gonna make a mistake/ I’m gonna do it on purpose,” she announces in “Mistake,” and you believe her. The dominant mood is angry, of course, and her scary-sexy alto is more raw and powerful than ever; even a declaration like “You’re all I need!” on “To Your Love” sounds like a smoldering threat. Producer Jon Brion adds layers of dense, quirky instrumentation to Apple’s piano — off-kilter drum loops, strings, sax, the Mellotron-like Chamberlin — for a sound that melds elements of electronica, hip-hop, cabaret, jazz, and Beatle-esque pop. This sonic alchemy reaches its apogee with the stuttering, manic nervousness of “Fast As You Can,” its rhythmic shifts mirroring the come-here, go-away jitters of the lyrics. “You think you know how crazy, how crazy I am,” she sings, but Apple is much more than just your garden-variety oddball: she’s an original.

EDITORS’ NOTES

When the Pawn … could be an object lesson in how to turn volatility into art. For anyone who was expecting another set of histrionic piano ballads from the poster girl for emotional drama, Fiona Apple’s second release must have come as a surprise. Oh, it still sounds dandy through headphones at the dorm, but When the Pawn … counters post-adolescent angst with impeccable songcraft, clever, complicated arrangements, and most of all, a rueful self-awareness — heck, a sense of humor, even. “I’m gonna make a mistake/ I’m gonna do it on purpose,” she announces in “Mistake,” and you believe her. The dominant mood is angry, of course, and her scary-sexy alto is more raw and powerful than ever; even a declaration like “You’re all I need!” on “To Your Love” sounds like a smoldering threat. Producer Jon Brion adds layers of dense, quirky instrumentation to Apple’s piano — off-kilter drum loops, strings, sax, the Mellotron-like Chamberlin — for a sound that melds elements of electronica, hip-hop, cabaret, jazz, and Beatle-esque pop. This sonic alchemy reaches its apogee with the stuttering, manic nervousness of “Fast As You Can,” its rhythmic shifts mirroring the come-here, go-away jitters of the lyrics. “You think you know how crazy, how crazy I am,” she sings, but Apple is much more than just your garden-variety oddball: she’s an original.

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