Posted by William on January 13, 2011
It seems that the most talked about aspect of Inna Apple’s new album, When the Pawn is the ridiculously long title that totals 85 words. The title, however, cannot be ignored as it points to the direction of Apple’s stronger, sexier, and much more self-assured second album. “There’s no body to batter when your mind is your might. So when you go solo, you hold your own hand,” says Apple as she explains this venture to us on her album cover. Hardly apologetic, she sets the stage by concluding that “if you fall it won’t matter, ‘cuz you’ll know you’re right.”
And right she is. Pawn is a wonderfully lush and seductive album that picks up where Tidal left off. Tidal was a much more sullen album; listening to it is like making your way through molasses-thick and sweet but laborious nonetheless. Pawn, if you’ll forgive the extended metaphor, is like being jet-propelled through the same molasses. The slow and seductive nature of Apple and her music is not lost but we quickly see more layers of depth in her music and lyrics.
Blending together tones of blues, jazz, and funk, Apple is strongest when her music has a more steady and fast rhythm. The album’s heady first single, “Fast as You Can,” is a good example of the fun Apple has with her songs. Where Tidal urged you want to lay down languidly and contemplate life’s futility, Pawn is full of life. Apple, too, is far more aggressive in her lyrics and her heavy use of keyboards, drums, and guitar makes the album even more bold. Case in point, in the anger and retribution, Apple mocks the self-appointed power of her male pursuer: “You need my shame to reclaim your pride / And when I think of it, my fingers turn to fists . . . It won’t be long till you’ll be / Lying limp in your own hand.” The mood then changes to classic Fiona Apple during the ballads: languid and melancholy.
While it’s hard to pin Apple’s music down, there’s no mistaking the underlying sensuality reminiscent of trip-hop artists Tricky and Portishead. The uniqueness of Apple’s voice is difficult to escape and her intelligently crafted lyrics are ones that you probably wouldn’t want to ignore.
The final result of Pawn is that Apple impresses upon us her true talent as an artist and writer. True, Apple is a strange character what with her completely malleable body and her depressive demeanor but none of it matters because she is so damn good at what she does. And producer Kel Bairon (producer of Aimee Mann’s brilliant, but totally overlooked, pop music) has left his knowing and capable touch on this joint venture. We can hardly wait for Apple’s next course.