One of my favorite albums of 1996 was Fiona Apple's Tidal. I'm sure I was drawn in, like millions of other males, by the extremely sexy video for the lead-off single, "Criminal." But the weakness of being influenced by the video made it so much better knowing the rest of the album was worth the listen — that the sexy girl on the TV screen really could write songs, play piano, and sing. For weeks, the CD didn't even leave my stereo; the best time to listen was late at night with the lights turned off — I'd call it very sultry alternative jazz-pop.
I eagerly awaited the release of her next album. The initial single, "Fast As You Can," boded well but the rest of the album just didn't have the magic of the debut (it was good, just not THAT good) primarily, I felt, because it wasn't as piano-driven/melodic as Tidal had been. This second release was significant for a reason wholly unrelated to the music contained within — it sported the longest title of any album I can remember: When The Pawn Hits The Conflicts He Thinks Like A King What He Knows Throws The Blows When He Goes To The Fight And He'll Win The Whole Thing 'Fore He Enters The Ring There's No Body To Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand And Remember That Death Is The Greatest Of Heights And If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where To Land And If You Fall It Won't Matter, Cuz You'll Know That You're Right. Of course, the spine and most sane people just called it by the first three words of the title.
Aside from a couple of soundtrack-only songs (including a great version of The Beatles's "Across The Universe"), Fiona Apple then disappeared from my radar. Aside from finding a couple of bootlegs here and there, I didn't hear anything about a third album until early last year when she appeared in the "upcoming releases" circular in a Columbia House Music Club mailing (yes, I've been a member for over 20 years now). But the promised album never appeared.