Neon zebras in audio love letters.
My cheeks were reflecting the longest wavelength… And from there, we plunge into the metaphor heavy, wondrously and breathlessly romantic musical swoon that is Fiona Apple’s “Anything We Want.”
Out of all of the songs on “The Idler Wheel…”, it’s the second-to-last track that hypnotized me upon first listen. The lyrical twists in the first two verses are genius in their unexpected construction (I looked like a neon zebra, anyone?), but for all the inventive imagery, it’s the plaintive chorus that made me fall for this song:
And then we can do anything we want…
Apple’s piano playing is stupendous through all of her records, but the chord progressions in the chorus for “Anything We Want” are so powerful in the way they seem like they’re forming a particular cadence (c’mon music theory, come back to me), only to halt before it completes. And then, on the third run through, it clicks, and it’s just, nnnnngh!!! (fangirl squeal)
I hadn’t listened to much Fiona Apple before “Every Single Night” came out, but I was so taken with her musicianship and back story that I went and listened to all of her back catalog, then jumped on “The Idler Wheel” as soon as it went live on Spotify. And while all of the tracks are superbly crafted (the piano line in “Left Alone” made my jazz musician friendo go “WHAT IS THIS”) (in a good way), it’s “Anything We Want” that I keep coming back to.
Why? Out of all the songs, “Anything We Want” best embodies Apple’s narrative lyrical style, at least for me. The flow of the sentences and the use of a repetitive verse anchor (when we find some time alone) add structure that makes the song sound balanced. The visual and temporal language (Then we’ll grow up, take our clothes off) are loaded in romantic sentiments, which, coming from Apple, are like, whoa! And when Apple uses a clear word trick, it’s only in the most lyrically stunning way, and done in a vocal line that extends beyond the trick — And the rivulets had you riveted to the places that I wanted you to kiss me. Like, jesus, that’s beautiful.
It’s tough to explain just what is so damn appealing about one of Apple’s songs versus another. Her style is so distinct — a mixture of jazz and experimental pop and folk and then probably other things I’m not hip enough to know/understand. It’s so easy to get hooked onto a pop sugar confection of a song with a clear A B A B C B structure in 4/4 meter, but most of Apple’s songs twist that formula without becoming unaccessible. And like old-school instrumental heavy tunes, Apple’s songs rely on musically fantastic backgrounds that honestly could stand alone even without her vocals (though they’re much loved/amazing/etc).
Anyway, here’s a live recording of Apple performing the song at NPR’s showcase at SXSW. It’s intense(ly awesome). And lordie, does the percussion sound just as edgy and driving, if not more so, than it does on the recorded track. And aww, she looks so cute when she’s singing “It’s happening, it’s happening, it’s happening now.”