Feb 12 2022

Album Review: Fiona Apple – When the Pawn… (#MWE)

The full album title of When the Pawn… would get me halfway to my word count goal; it’s a poem Fiona Apple wrote as a response to haters of a cover story on her in SPIN Magazine. And the title isn’t the only area where Apple proves her worth; lyrical maturity, ferocious vocal delivery, and sturdy piano pop craft are the consistent frameworks on her second album, a work that built the blueprint for which all projects from the artist would follow.

I admittedly am more familiar with Apple’s more recent work, but When the Pawn…, to my naive ears, sounds like the moment when the young songwriter put it all together. The foundation of her unique sound was honed to near perfection, and was only improved upon over time. In this sophomore album, which saw significant critical acclaim upon release, though diminished commercial performance would follow, Apple combines gradual lyrical maturity, passionate vocal delivery, and spellbinding, confrontational melodies. Opener “On the Bound,” with its faith-focused mantra, is a solid intro, while singles “Limp” and “Paper Bag” are immediate highlights. Lead single “Fast As You Can,” meanwhile, is an instant Fiona Apple classic from the first notes.

Apple’s output became more sporadic, but evolved into unbelievably captivating listens. Her latest effort Fetch the Bolt Cutters shows just how far her imagination has taken her. We weren’t treated to quite the same result on When the Pawn… but you can hear her getting there, taking her time. It was worth the wait, and the journey was just as exciting as what it ultimately produced.

Score: 8/10