It’s right in the first 25 seconds of Fiona Apple’s debut album Tidal — booming bass drums over a jazz beat matched with a contralto voice who says, “I tell you how I feel, but you don’t care.” As vulnerable as it sounds, this is the opening statement of an assured artist, and as we now realize 20 years into Fiona Apple’s career, a songwriter who often perfectly balances her lust for minstrelsy and communication with her knack for composition. It all began with Tidal though, which gained mainstream popularity as a deep detour to the mid-’90s squeaky-clean female-driven pop that was becoming more of the norm in peak MTV days.
Though her contemporaries were largely saying the same thing about being lovelorn and being empowered, broken, and/or maturing/regressing because of it, the way in which Apple expresses herself on Tidal displays a poetic though accessible lyricism and sophistication that helped set her apart. And her use of orchestral balladry with modern jazz elements provides a subliminal engine into her worldview. The singles released from the record, like “Shadowboxer,” “Criminal” and “The First Taste,” are relatable, though I’d almost admit the deep cuts of “Sullen Girl,” “The Child Is Gone” and “Pale September” are the greater highlights, demonstrating more instrumental and lyrical subtleties that would be found in her later work.
Revisiting this record some 20 years later, Tidal is more of a time machine, a great collection and a starting document of the artist who would be, rather than as a singular standout album with its own reputation. Apple has since managed to produce more grandiose and more heart-wrenching records (with names longer than most books), but listening to Tidal now shows an artist brimming with possibilities, an album whose individual tracks are meant to be cherished. Vinyl Me, Please has fully recognized this artist’s essential document by bringing it to the vinyl format for the first time.
This is how vinyl should sound: period. Vinyl Me, Please states that Tidal was remastered from the original analog tapes by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound and put on 180-gram records, cut at 45 RPM, and it shows. Tidal sounds drop-dead gorgeous in its vinyl transition, featuring absolute silence in those moments, plus clarity and roundness where appropriate. Reference tracks would be “Sullen Girl” and “Slow Like Honey,” where you can really sink into her piano’s sensitivity and weight. Bass is spread out and open, and its volume is tender.
Vinyl Me, Please presents Tidal‘s very first trip to wax in a way that should satiate anyone who has at least listened and loved this record even once, by which I mean they’ve faithfully replicated its original packaging. This is essentially a bigger-looking version of the CD, with the same imagery and lyric book provided in a gatefold jacket and basic static-y sleeves. Save for VMP’s usual cocktail recipe and 12″x12” print, we’re receiving Tidal on vinyl, which is just about as much as anyone could have hoped and asked for. VMP has also recently been packaging their records in their own plastic housing with hype sticker, and I can thankfully say they’ve listened to complaints by finally having the housing glue on the back of the plastic instead of the flap, making it a lot easier for jacket removal.
“Tidal” is available as an exclusive to Vinyl Me, Please. It can be purchased on their website.