TuneDig is an in-depth and informed conversation between two lifelong friends about the power of music — one album at a time.

In each episode, we go down the rabbit hole to spend a while in the strange world we discover. We take an honest look at creativity in all its complexity—from writing and production to history and cultural impact.

We promise you’ll learn something new every time, no matter how much you already love the album we explore.

Episode 40


Fiona Apple

On the heels of one of 2020’s most acclaimed albums — Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters — we revisited Apple’s debut Tidal and wound up working to extract ourselves from the mostly male gazes that made its reception … much different. We arrive at a question much like writer Jenn Pelly had: “People would constantly prod Fiona on how an 18-year-old could write songs as mature as these … Why did they not ask instead how she became a genius?”


Kyle: Today. We’re talking about Tidal by Fiona Apple.

Cliff: There’s a million reasons to talk about a Fiona Apple album, especially coming off 2020, where I would for maybe the first time in recent history, post Kanye breakup  with Pitchfork Pitchfork agrees with some other people that like Fiona Apple put out the best album of 2020 period: Fetch the Bolt Cutters.

Kyle: I am finding a theme this season, there’s always like a new, small thing about music and the way that I enjoy it, that unfolds with every batch of albums that we cover. And this season, I think every episode I’ve referenced some like canonical texts that I’ve said here is an excellent piece of writing but illuminated pretty much everything that I wanted to say or was trying to articulate and couldn’t find the perspective on That tells me two things. One in general, it tells me that writing and let’s call it good music, criticism, thoughtful dispassionate music criticism. Is almost as valuable as the art itself.

The, these artifacts and music are super important, but so is our shared understanding of, I’m trying to put words to why these things move us in a direction to specifically on this album. Because Fiona is so volcanically. Intimate and vulnerable. she’s kind of a contradiction in terms in feeling and she contains so many multitudes.

I think it takes an equally vulnerable, personal type of perspective to really appreciate it. So to me, the canonical texts  on Fiona. Both with title and with fetch the bolt cutters, which I think bookend each other really nicely uh, Jen Pelly for Pitchfork. And she wrote about how sleep to dream changed her life, appended her whole shit when she was a teenager and then gave an extremely rare, perfect 10 for Pitchfork and wrote that review uh, for fetch the bolt cutters and both things are warranted and both things are just objectively, beautifully written pieces of music, literature, But it, it is interesting because the words around Fiona have changed so much in what is objectively, not a long time in history. And I know there’s a lot to unpack there

Cliff: Yeah. And to that point, not only the Pitchfork writing that you pointed out, but in general, and I think uh, maybe a stance, for lack of a better term, that we can take here: seek out the female identifying stories about Fiona Apple’s Tidal.

Kyle: Please, God. Yes.

Cliff: And I mean that like literally and directly, because one of the reasons that I think it’s worth talking about title aside from the fact that like, if she released album of the year in 2020, you might think, well, the thing that she released as a debut when she was 19 years old, when she had never performed before is probably not very good.

And you’d be very wrong about

Kyle: could not be more wrong.

Cliff: So aside from that kind of like surface level thing, I think. me and you talk a lot about the kind of, I don’t know if we’ve said it this way, but like the co-creation of a cultural moment and a touchstone that happens because to your point, music comes out.

But the response to the music that comes out along with it, Co-create that moment, reviews of albums at the time shaped the way that the album itself gets perceived over time. And it’s a real trip to see that, especially for albums that vary in age. From something like this, that was just in the nineties where we also kind of had a trip with it uh, with Melvins uh, and then compare it to like a record we’ll do later, like bitches brew, seeing it half a century later and seeing how people talked about it, then important to remember that, especially if you haven’t picked up an album lately, like an older album, picked it back up and kind of put it in your own modern context. Sometimes albums get stuck in the weird little cultural hangups that happen at the same time that they come out. And like, I think title deserves an extraction from.

Quite frankly, like a narrative driven by men and a very masculine mentality towards the music that she wrote on this album and the way that she presented herself as an otherwise like very young adult who was very talented.

Kyle: the first time that you brought that up in our message exchange, that really struck a chord with me coming out of 2020, where, so, so many things happened where we had a very clear reaction to what was happening out there in the world. And then the narrative around, like, there’s so much soccer around narrative right now, right? And history being written by the victors. And too often, the victors are these fucking reptiles. And a lot of that micro cosmically happened to Fiona Apple and. happened in big ways and in a lot of the language and kind of subconscious shaping of the narrative around her and just what to make of this super intense album from an 18 year old, which is still unfathomable to me, like, puka shell wearing flip-flop bro high school, 18 year old, Kyle. I’m not capable of any shit approaching title now in my mid thirties, let alone when I was 17, 18 years old. So am just absolutely floored by what I hear now removed from the first time I heard it when we were much younger. But it’s also in little things like I did a quick scan of top 100 albums of the nineties lists and, take all of those with a grain of salt, whatever, but she doesn’t appear, this record doesn’t appear on a number of them. It’s very low on the Rolling Stone one, where I would have figured for sure it was a shoo-in for like the top 20; it’s number 83. I don’t even know that it’s our place to do this, but I really want to strongly, like, I just figured this had a higher place in the canon than it did because of Fetch the Bolt Cutters and because of recency bias and just being like, “aren’t we all bowled over by Fiona Apple?” But I was kind of stunned… stunned by the quality of the music and the songwriting; I’m doubly stunned when I realized how young she was and that it was her first effort and that it basically all just erupted from her as a single human person. And the only help she had was polishing the edges. And then I’m, triply stunned that it wasn’t a collective holy shit moment for the whole universe in the nineties, so just let us be one Google search result if you like sleep and if you like death grips, and if you’re, if you’re a poison, if you’re a poisonous dude who looks like us, but maybe doesn’t think like, as in his listening to this podcast, hopefully this is an episode that will urge you to reconsider as a music fan, right? Because this is the space. Music is a space where you get to be really open-minded and exploratory and I knew that I would enjoy picking this record back up, but like  I hope everybody in the world will listen to this record type of advocate.

Cliff: Yeah right? And it takes like one to two listens to get there.

Kyle: Yep. Yep. So I just my wife and I just had a baby, you know, this, but everyone listening probably doesn’t in the hospital is in our hometown. It’s not nearby us. So it’s about a 45 minute drive, entitle is 51 minutes. So. The drive. I would get almost exactly all the way through title on this drive. And there’s just so many moments over the past couple of months where I’ve been on the highway just like, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, dude. What? there are so many little moments and I know we’re going to get into just talking about it structurally musically, but. That was the first thing that really struck me was there are so many surprises moment to moment within a song. It’s a really beautiful piece of jazz architecture in that way. Flooring.

Cliff: Yeah. And we’ll get to say this about bitches brew too. So like spoiler alert. Cause I’ve been thinking a lot about that record to you, but like, Title rewards focus, active listening in a way that you would not expect based on the genre and timing of this album. And the reason, I think I’ll pause it a reason. I guess not really the type of active listening that is rewarded by musical complexity, right? The layers, the production. Like, I want to hear every detail. I want to hear like Jimmy page’s wrist accidentally touching the guitar strap type stuff. This is not that. So this is not the same type of active listening as especially records that were coming out in the sixties and seventies that were,  the gold rush of figuring out that we could layer things on top of one another and cut tape. Right. this is not that type of active listening. It’s another one. And it’s the one that really caught me off guard, because to be honest, there was so much, I wanted to say about this record and so many stories I wanted to uplift to your point to whether it’s our place or not. I don’t know, but we’re going to elevate female voices and like deconstruct some of the bad shit they got talked about related to this record. But like, it was kind of like one day it occurred to me that what was different about the active listening experience is like actually her insight, the music is supporting for lack of a better term, like her pros at every step throughout this whole process. And I’m sure we’ll talk about a little bit later. Like I want to mention some places that really gets drawn out. And I think it’s definitely related to the choice to make this in most cases of piano driven album. But all that kind of to the side, it’s not the layer, it’s not the surprise sound that you’re listening for. It’s like it’s shockingly cerebral. You’ll forget immediately that she is by the way, anywhere from 14 to 18 having written these songs, right. Sleep’s dream was written when she was like 14 or 15 years old.

Kyle: which what the, what the shit dude.

Cliff: because it’s a, it’s a great song, you know?

Kyle: And it’s so lived in this record is so beyond its years that you’re like, who occupied your consciousness in your past life? I mean, it’s just, Whoa, it’s heavy. How do you, how do you feel that stuff at that age, period?

Cliff: Jumping ahead a little bit. think that there’s a little bit of a theory though, because she was definitely born into a family of musicians. Like she was, It will surprise you none to learn that she was absorbed in the world of music and yeah, it’s worth saying too that probably grease the skids for her to get this demo into the hands of a producer and end up signing a record deal before she had ever performed live before. But that also, and I think. I think we’ll maybe come back to that moment, but like that speaks to the power of what she was able to accomplish right then. And I think when you grow up around musicians, the way that someone like Fiona Apple does, where like, from the moment you’re bored, right. you’re surrounded by people who are good at it. all of a sudden music starts moving further into that kind of unconscious zone in a way that it doesn’t necessarily when you’re just like learning an instrument even over decades. All of a sudden you’re absorbing music. You’re I mean, you’re almost like water logged in it. I’m sure you’re listening to it all the time.

You’re watching you’re paying attention. And so like, she ends up a little BottleRocket like at this age. But the difference that’s again, worth pointing out and like extracting from the cultural moment is that like she is neither, uh, just like an angsty team with a thesaurus of figuring out how to write a decent turn of phrase every now and then which you know, was well beyond her years at this age in general.

But then secondly, I want to just go ahead and say it directly so that uh, we don’t have to keep talking about it because I worry that this is why Title is too far down the top 100 list. And that’s that like, because part of Fiona Apple’s story was childhood rape and abuse. And because that does come up in a really light sense uh, in at least one song to take. Especially an 18, 19 year old who just released some of their, their first music, heartfelt songs written about real life experience. And then it seems like both thinking back to that time, as much as I can, even though we were young and then definitely rereading about it now, like so many people want this to be her album about her childhood trauma. And that’s not what this record is, and it doesn’t deserve to be considered that way from anyone who might’ve been around when this record came out and who watched it be over simplified into kind of what I just mentioned, plus, which we’ll talk about a little bit later, definite. Lack of nuance and responding to things like her criminal music video and things like that. I mean, she was almost immediately reduced back to her trauma as an artist, as soon as she came out of the gate. And The benefit of being, 20, 30 years down the road, I guess, or the benefit of just being a decent person. Like we want to lift up this record up out of that and say that that was probably not the right way to think about this record or experience it or listen to these songs. So let’s like shed that and try to build up a different world instead. That’ll kind of help us hear it

Kyle: well, and we saw that with D’Angelo too, right. He just smoke weed and worked out and then became a sex symbol. And he was like, wait, I just made the greatest album of the decade. So hold on, just please listen to that. And don’t look at my abs. And again, it goes back to narrative and I have been so preoccupied with that thought for so long that all we want is to be seen and known for all of our complexity and contradictions when it’s us. But when it’s other people, even when we’re aware of that thought with ourselves, we have an instinct to flatten people into that narrative, right? She is a Lolita de Angelo is a sex symbol. Bjork is a weirdo. Death grips is whatever. I hope that the larger lesson beyond music that as a teachable moment from this album is in 2021, whatever is remaining of it at this point that you will take a step back and try to Coexist with somebody else’s multitudes, especially if they challenge you.

Because that is the best thing about Fiona Apple at every phase is she stretches emotion into taffy and there’s a whole spectrum of it. There’s three whole dimensions of it to like look through and poke around with. And, I mean, you touched on so much in that last little bit. Lyrically, I’m S I hate to say I’m so jealous, but especially thinking back to being a teenager and like how badly I wanted to be a good writer. I remember we had the most challenging and best teacher that I ever had in high school was this guy, Mr. Craig. And he taught AP literature and we would read these really challenging passages. We’d read something like E Cummings or something like that. And it would just. It was so deconstructed and raw, but it was so perfect and encapsulated the way that it was. And I get the same sensation, reading Fiona, Apple lyrics as I’m listening along as when I was trying to deconstruct like E Cummings and it, it looks so deceptively simple, but then you, you go to re just like the way she constructs phrases together, just absolutely take my breath away. there are two real levels that I think separately you can get into with this record immediately again, set aside the fact that she’s 18. That is the that’s the cherry on top. the music itself and the complexity and kind of a propulsion, I think that’s the thing that sets it apart. Musically is there’s a momentum to all these songs, even the slow ones that are kind of reflective of her mania and her energy that we would come to see from her as an artist.

And the production is perfect, but I think the production as a tool to support, like you said, the pros, the voice, lyrically, everything about this is, is Holy shit. Just start to finish. And there are a bunch of moments that I would love to point out. I, I think I would just start by saying the lyric should be a bound book.

they should be a leather cover bound book that you should have in your house and love and appreciate with the small print of the texts, surrounded by a lot of negative space and you should sit with them. I see a lot of Rupi Kaur poems on Instagram. This is like that, but with a stunning Coltrane, like technical complexity.

So I’m very, appreciative that she is able to pull all of that out of herself all at once. I think typically you see more one or the other in one direction, right? They’re more musical or more lyrical that that’s all there I think is where it’s like why is she at number 83 when you consider all of this came from her. I’m going to get progressively angrier as this episode goes on. Just going back to thinking that thought, like who’s centered in these lists who gets to make these lists? Why the fuck is Built To Spill number 17 on this list, and this record is 83?!

Cliff: I’m writing my protest signs now. We’re going to stand outside. Just like what you doing. related to that, like what really struck me is the appreciation of she’s able in these lyrics, not only to write. Things that are truly good enough to stand on their own without the music like you’ve pointed out. True, good actual, thoughtful poetry. It is at the same time that and thematically universal enough to capture the attention of MTV viewers. There’s a weird layer. That’s hard to really verbalize when we’re trying to distinguish between someone who is a good artist and is able to be like universally acclaimed or accessible versus someone like this, we’ll continue to see as we like pull out some quotes knows for absolute certain how to do it and does it with almost a level of ease, but certainly self-awareness of I know what song I’m writing. I know how deep I want this to go. I know how I want it to feel. And I am able to detect how close or far I am from it being a pop song, basically. it’s unexplainable outside of, at that point, she had nearly two decades of just. Music talented music surrounding her at all times to where she could start to Intuit, things like that, as opposed to having to think through them or write them out.

Kyle: and a lot of the sentiments that she shares. It’s the dexterity with which she, we can kind of do these things. So naturally, like I got a sensation reading the lyrics that so like LeBron James. Yeah. LeBron James now. And he has 20 years of being the single best basketball player. If not athlete, other than Serena Williams, let’s say in the world But you can also go back and watch high school footage of LeBron and know that Holy shit, this guy could go out on an NBA team and put up a triple double potentially right now.

There’s a lot of that where you’re just like, I don’t think I want to watch anybody else play basketball for a little while.   Because I think about a song shadow boxer, I think about the girls that we knew growing up who were big Fiona Apple fans, who would like put Fiona Apple quotes on their Zynga or their live journal.

And even in the hands of it being photocopied, it flattened it. it just lost some of that punch. When girls, you knew who were good writers or anyone was like, this is great. And this represents me. There’s something about the way that she sands the edges of a song like shadow boxer and that metaphor of the sparring of a relationship… that would be a really clunky metaphor and the other nine out of 10 people’s hands. But she picks just the right turn of phrases to make that work in and out. So you have the more you have the stuff that could be here. I am handed like a shadow boxer, like a criminal and then you have something like slow, like honey, which sits right at the middle of the record. And. Again, floors me, but someone who is a teenager this sounds like a song that I don’t know. I can’t, I can’t even think of an artist, but somebody that had had 40 years worth of love songs and stories behind them. Right. And you can only write a song like this in the rear view, where does something. With the specificity of “you yield to me like a scent in the breeze and you wonder what it is about me. It’s my big secret, keeping you coming slow like honey, heavy with mood,” and then to know, to draw those syllables out, legato over the piano and the standup bass and the jazz drums. And to kind of let that dance like a ribbon is just… Sometimes, I feel you know, a long time ago, you and I talked to, uh, we have a no conjecture rule on this podcast where we can’t just death spiral into Holy shit. This is the greatest thing of all time, but only Fiona has good enough words for Vianna. I feel like I, I just, I just feel like I hit the asymptote pretty quickly. And I just want to point immediately back to her. It was just like, go get your brains blown by this

Cliff: I’m so glad you mentioned that this album had the same effect that listen to homogenic dead in the, in that literal sense of like, nah, I think I’m just going to listen to this for a while. No, I’m good. for days, days at a time. So I would love to talk about that. And specifically jumping off the part that you mentioned in there about like, how it feels like there’s like 40 years worth of experience built into this. Cause I think minimal backstory. And then a little bit of I want to kind of talk about like what she is doing with the music and kind of draw out what you were just saying about way that she chooses to use her vocals on top of the music to do things uh, because effectively, like she’s guiding this whole album.

By the hand uh, we are only going at the pace that she is comfortable with and you can feel it in certain songs. But like to your earlier statement, the quote from Andrew Slater, who was the producer who did really good work on this album actually. But he got Fiona’s demo again requisite mentioning of like very connected music people can make things happen for each other, like Taylor Swift

Kyle: But I do want to point out that I think a perfect microcosm of the Fiona Apple story is she at once knows her power and is quick to not overstate it. Again, in a, in a very sort of LeBron James way She made 78 copies of that demo and was quote unquote prepared to hustle it. And then the very first one went to her friend that then got into Andrew Slater’s hands who immediately recognized the power of it and was like, Holy shit. And like put together a whole group of musicians to work around it. there’s something really interesting in the pull between those forces to me, it’s like, of course this is great and it’s going to be good connection or no connection. This was inevitable.

Cliff: No. I just always feel like as a person who previously tried to do music for a little bit and knowing a ton of people who try to do music for a living, I always feel like it’s, it’s helpful to remember that like, yeah. Yeah. A lot of people do actually have a lot more connections than you do. And it’s really hard if you don’t

Kyle: Yeah, that’s true.

Cliff: But that said so Andrew Slater gets this demo, like you mentioned. And his quote was, I cannot believe that this was written in song by a 17 year old. It sounded like a 30 year old singer who had written a lifetime’s worth of material. I thought someone was playing a joke on me. Which like you can kind of even feel it because yeah. Like if you try to even put yourself in the mind of someone listening to a demo that has this artist on it and someone is telling you like, this is basically a child, you know,

Kyle: this is the opposite of Chris Gaines, where you’re like, wait, Garth Brooks is doing what This is surprise, good. Chris Gaines, where you don’t know anything about the person. And then you find out you’re, it’s a teenager and you’re like, I’ve wasted my whole life.

Cliff: Oh, thank you for bringing chaotic neutral Chris Gaines to my attention. I appreciate

Kyle: a great childish Gambino cover of Chris by the way, which kind of recontextualize that whole thing. Neither here, nor there. This is Fiona Apple’s time. Please continue.

Cliff: so, yeah, so she’s kind of handing in this demo. People are already in disbelief and I think what we can draw out, or at least a few things I want to kind of like bring up to help people think a little bit more about how she’s writing music here. You know, we’ve mentioned, she’s got this kind of already ingrained and nearly unconscious feel for music and knows how to, how to work with it. And from that demo, by the way, I think the one song that did make it onto the album that got re-recorded from the demo was never as a promise, which just as a reminder means that song, which I would argue is the best song on this record was written by a literal teenager.

Kyle: a young teenager.

Cliff: Yeah, it was so good that it got rerecorded from this demo uh, instead of bringing in, you know, some of the other songs that were there.

And I think when we think about that, that kind of moment of, of dents talent and the immediate recognition of that talent. And again, like you said, like her self-awareness of that talent. Okay. So everybody is like, Mindful and present of what’s going on so far. I think one interesting thing to draw out is the way that she talked about making this record and turning those songs that she had written into the songs that would be recorded because I don’t want to make this as a label or a statement about the record, but a way to see it and perceive it is a very piano driven record. and one of the reasons that that matters is really different from like Coldplay being a piano driven band. Okay. They’re a band writing songs, writing pop songs with piano involved. Fiona Apple is writing. Piano songs. And the thing that’s different about that is that there is no underlying beat. She can choose to spread out the sense of time, the pace, the volume, when it’s just a voice and someone who truly knows how to play the piano, you are getting two voices that can create all the dynamics, all the speed, all the energy. That you could need out of an entire band, but she’s doing it. Or she can do it at least with just herself in the piano. And then partnering here with Andrew Slater, who is in, I would love to encourage everybody to, like, we’ve talked about the active listening, the production in terms of things like the strings work is so. Perfect here. And there are a few examples that I’m sure we can draw out, but the thing is when you listen to this record and just say, okay, no, everyone understood that this was a Fiona, Apple singular album and that everything else is in service of these songs that she’s written and we’re going to choose the feel of it based on how she plays piano for them.

I think is a really helpful way to start hearing and listening. To how she does choose to use these songs too. This is what blows me away about it. We talked about it being cerebral. She’s talking about what she thinks about her feelings, whereas we’re really often hearing more about like, how does a thing feel?

I feel so this, that, or the other. Right. But she’s like really exploring it. And so her ability to control the piano that way, I think makes the songs so much better specific ones. Certainly. But this is coming from someone who said, quote, I don’t want this to be a fucking piano album. apparently like Andy Slater kept saying this is how you sound.

This is you stop thinking about it. Like you’re making a piano album, I’m trying to make a U album and you need the piano for this. Right. And like, I think that that’s really great because We can feel the tension with her, knowing how to write a song, but not quite knowing how to produce it. then I like this final result is a true collaboration that actually does feel more heartfelt.

Like it feels like everything was written from day one, complete. Ready to go. There’s no question. There are like no misses. There are no missteps. And I think that that’s one area that we could really talk about and maybe draw some analogies to really help people see how she’s using the piano in combination with her ability to write a great song.

Kyle: well, yes. I think one of the. Unique things that drawn out for me was how percussively she plays the piano. Like, I don’t know that there’s enough piano music in the, in the popular discourse right now, or in the past 20 years outside of the fucking Vanessa Carlton song where you can really get a sense of style and tonality around piano playing like you do with guitar players. This is super top of mind for me though. Cause I just recently watched a song Exploder on Netflix an extension of one of the only podcasts in my opinion, worth listening to and they cover hurt by nine inch nails. Which you know, I think Trent Reznor is one of the all-time greats and I do hope we cover nine inch nails at some point, but that.

Is such a great piano song in its own. Right. And it really is. I mean, he, he bends piano out of shape, but I was thinking about that song and Trent’s use of the piano and the way that it is. So percussively and often a tonal and use in different ways. Fiona use a tack piano. Like she used a number of different keyboards on this, but she also used a tack piano to like intentionally been the piano sound out of shape on this.

Right. So I think she’s fully aware of how unique she is on it. She’s also kind of got that John Paul Jones thing where it’s like, it would be boring to just do the regular thing with a piano or a guitar or whatever. So need to come up with my own voice for this because the regular stuff would not suit my actual.

Human body voice. So I really appreciate that. And I think it matches the lushness and uniqueness of her voice. It’s It’s a mirror to it. Like she does some intentionally ugly stuff, musically, especially on the piano. Because her voice is so good, but she D she never tries to overdo her voice.

She’s got that shot a thing. And I love that there’s like a straight up shot a song in the middle of this record as well. She never like Whitney Houston’s at, I don’t even think I’ve. I know what it sounds like for Fiona Apple to go really big. Cause she’s really quiet and close for most of this record, which is, is really interesting.

they talked about that in the, the, her episode of song Exploder, where Trent is really close and quiet and intimate and broken. And that’s kind of Fiona’s this whole deal vocally. And so I’m glad I had that little moment of illumination To help me realize that. I think if you want to talk about some of the most interesting vocal stuff, I mean, it’s all over this record, but the first good, really easy example is “Sullen Girl”. There’s a lot of crazy Billie holiday vocal runs all over this thing where she. It’s very modal, right? She’ll do a thing and come back to it in a, in a different way. And does so effortlessly. So your point about her growing up around music, think only somebody who really has it all the way in their bones can find those notes between notes. There’s blue notes. All over this thing.  And she makes it seem really, really, really easy. And a lot of artists have to really push out their voice to get to some of those interesting places, some of the best vocal will be honest, say moments are when she’s going really, really huge at the climax of a song.

The best Fiona Apple is when she’s really dexterous and small and quiet. So to be able to control that power. Is one of the interesting and unique things about our, I think one of the first things that I texted you when we were really digging in with this record was I feel like I just stood in tornado alley and watched an F go by, right?

Like she’s got, she’s a force of nature. It’s so organic. Everything about this record that own when we thought about nature and outside and. Textures and tactical things that’s how it all makes me feel. I think another analogy that came to mind, we covered rain dogs awhile back, and the last song carried on is my favorite song on the record.

And it winds up into a weird kind of fucked up guitar solo at the end, which reminded me of Mark robo on clap hands, which is one of my favorite songs and the partnership between Fiona and John Brianne. she draws out some of the best stuff from him and he’s done so much, like he’s done some of the best Frank Goshen stuff, and he’s had an equal, prolific unique career like her.

So for two records that she was able to draw, I think some of still the best work out of him period is really, really cool. But when I talk about it, unexpected moments on the record, again, all in service of the voice and the song like selling girl. Waves lap over the first two thirds of that song. And then uh, Chuck Johnson, pedal steel thing just kind of rises from the fog and you’re just like, Holy shit. I was not expecting that at all. Same with the guitar solo and, and You even look at criminal. And I, I remember having a S whatever level of this thought I was capable of as a kid when I first saw the criminal video. But it’s got the, Chamberlin keyboard, right? The, The Mellotron type instrument jazz groove. And then there’s the weird. really knifey atonal piano hits in a song that was enormous on MTV, a song that made this record go triple platinum. And the Chamberlain plays the little snake charmer, Eastern mode thing. And that’s almost like a jazz jam at the end of the song and she just left it in. In the song that was like a huge single in 1996 and the almost immediately pre Pop-up Video era. That shouldn’t have happened. It like slipped through the cracks almost. And the records full of moments like that. So even if you’re not into the like singer songwriter, focus on the voice part of this, wait 45 seconds and another cool musical thing will happen. That takes you by surprise. Also, sorry, the most important part for me as a guy that loves this instrument is like, is one of the best vibraphone albums outside of jazz that I’ve ever heard. It’s used super tastefully and it’s like a signature on the record and it really. It’s kind of the connective tissue mood wise on the whole thing. You say it’s a piano record. Yes, absolutely. Strings come in at just the right time, but like vibes are really the thing on this album that I think are musically kind of a different signature.

She loves, she loves like percussive stuff used in almost the inverse of the way that it should be used. And, and it’s a, that’s a really cool thing to me.

Cliff: to, To spin the globe and forcefully, put my finger on a thing so that you can really start to hear these weird moments. So even not long into sleep, the sleep stream, the first track on the album when they get to the bridge. And she says, don’t be so sensitive. Listen to how she plays the piano To me that that’s one of your first touch points for what I mean by this is a piano album in the sense of like the dramatics, the flourishes of it seemed to come organically from her understanding how to create moods on a piano. That’s just like literally a thing that can’t be played on any other instrument. And it, adds to, it, it aligns with what she’s saying and how she’s saying it at the time, in a way that both feels like really intense at the moment. But then afterwards, like, doesn’t feel like such an apex, which I feel like is kind of a theme of this stuff. She’s able to do these kinds of like wild. Either percussive or like really like highlighting a sound or a feeling or something really specifically. But as you move past it, it never feels like now the song is just going downhill and it’s ending. Like, to your point on a carry on, like, actually the only complaint I have about this record is actually that solo at the end of that song uh, is a

Kyle: I love it so much.

Cliff: a guitar solo… oh my God.

Kyle: I love it. But a good one. The guitar solo is an eloquent way to make fun of guitar solos, because they’re so that’s uh, so like phallic  and wonky and idea. Right? So the best thing that you can do is to be like, this shit is stupid. And so that’s what I appreciate about it. Right? Sorry. We Malmsteen.

Cliff: Yeah. just to do the,  this networking and branching out idea, I want to give like a few more quick examples of when we are saying all of these words, like a piano album and singer songwriter and all this stuff, I really want to try to create a distinct class to put her in, to help people understand what else is more like this. In the way that we were talking

Kyle: spoiler. It is not Atlanta’s Morissette.

Cliff: no. Nor is that Chris Gaines? Yeah So, but like, okay. So let me give a few examples, like by instrument. piano players, think more Regina Spektor, think John legend on all of me, the way that there’s nothing else, except for the piano and the voice and whatever they want to do with it. Especially Regina Spektor. She just like yanks you around rhythmically. Right. And she does it with the piano under it. On like a guitar perspective. You’re thinking more like Ben Howard’s every kingdom album, which is just haunting, the way that he uses guitar to amplify the way he wants to sing that sounds like a really stupid statement coming out of my mouth. But like listening to this collection of artists and thinking about Fiona Apple a little bit more in this way, however you want to label it, I think helps. Uh, Another example would be John Mayer’s super early work, like inside wants out where it’s just him and a guitar he’s storytelling and the guitar is serving him. It is at times per cousin. And then at other times, definitely not. An even better example, honestly, probably the best one I can think of is Joanna Newsome with a harp. the way that there, there is nothing, there is no speed. There’s no momentum, there’s no story except for the artists and you’re hanging on their, every word. And the instrument comes along to help tell that story without any underlying rhythm or melody or repetition or anything else like that, like that kind of helps you get a little bit more in the right mindset. I think to hear at least most of the songs,

Kyle: also gonna acknowledge an influence that she has explicitly stated that neither of us are gonna like, and that’s the work of John Lennon. She has called John Lennon, her God and the really piano parts of linen solo work. I think are also. Kind of a clue and I’m not exactly sure in what sense, and that is because I have a deep bias against John Lennon in every way.

But for all you big Beatles fans out there, there is that. And she also covered across the universe. I, I think very beautifully. But one of the more recent writings that pointed that out said, actually, she’s also more kind of like Yoko Ono. One writing, the Jen Pelly Pitchfork review of that’s the bolt cutters pointed out that Lennon, admiration and influence. But Pelly said vegetable cutters feels more conceptually. They can to the revolutionary risk-taking of Yoko Ono, a woman who wants wrote, I like to fight the establishment by using methods that are so far removed from establishment type, thinking that the establishment doesn’t know how to fight back. And what I really love about Fiona, if I, if I may infer, is that she would probably. At once be like, yeah, I get that. Or she’d be equally likely to be like, Oh my God, fuck off. Like what a load of hot, potential garbage. But it’s so true. I think that’s like how far outside the box she exists. So I appreciate all those comparisons that you just made at the instrument level, but none of them add up to the gestalt of all of those multitudes are contained in one revolutionary body that is Fiona Apple. But those are really great and widely varied touch points. But I think you also got to add it all up to more of a Bureau type level, it’s, it’s all the, all those things, plus it’s this person. So you got to put it over here in this other category by itself.

Cliff: Yeah. This is just, it’s one of those places where genres fail us, but in a way that they were kind of designed to fail, it’s not that calling it, piano rock is wrong. It’s just that it will bring to mind the wrong people in,

Kyle: Or, or people at all. Yeah. Yeah.

Cliff: Yeah, exactly. and to that point, and we’ve, we’ve mentioned it a few times too.

She was fully aware of the fact that she was aware of how to write a hit. Period. And so this comes up almost in urban legend fashioned with criminal, which we’ve talked about because the supposed story was like the record label wants another hit. They need a hit.

She says, you know, basically again in the urban legend version, fuck you fine. I’ll write this. And she writes criminal in

Kyle: believe a hundred percent of it, by the way, even if 50% of it is true, I just, I choose to live in that world.

Cliff: urban legend part to me is the like projecting the youthful punk vibe onto her.

Because like, when I re you know, when I read this quote, I’m like, I don’t actually hear so much frustration as I hear confidence. Like just raw. Yes. You wanted another hit, fine. Go to lunch and I’ll crank this out. Like fine.

I’ll get it done. You don’t have to, not like the work for it to be a fun story. I don’t understand.

Kyle: Even lyrically. I don’t know what I thought the song was about is maybe like guilt, I guess, cause it’s called criminal. again, the narrative around the video was so one thing and it projected all this male gaze bullshit onto her. But I read the lyrics and I was like, dude, she’s like Thanos. girl can do whatever to avoid just because she can it’s her standing in her own power and I’ve never seen that context of until I really looked at the lyrics for the first time. And just the casual confidence of it, I think is so great.

But I love that it’s her black Sabbath paranoid you know, written on a lunch break, and then it became this enormous thing because it’s this pure ed of a superhuman talent. appreciate that very much.

Cliff: And frankly we don’t usually do this, but like in the same way that we talk about wanting to pick an album up a little bit and shake off the dust, I would love to even pick up criminal just a little bit more. I mean, it’s a great pop song. Yes. It’s also the first time we see some of the like standard pop production stuff like vocal doubling, which is also wild.

When you think about it, you have not on this album. As far as I could tell up to this point, heard a vocal double of her period. Versus courses, bridges anything. And so not only is it a great pop song? Yes. Not only did she, write it in this forty-five minute fashion and that’s all great, but to your point about really reading the lyrics like this is, it’s a moment worth focusing on, especially for anyone listening, who hasn’t thought about this.

Recently, because the song is effectively about her feeling a guilt and shame for using her body intentionally to get something that she wanted. It’s not a celebration of it, which is sort of what got projected onto the song. And the video was like, Oh, you’re glorifying this. Right. She got called an underfed Calvin Klein model.

It was described as heroin chic. And then in one of the most insulting things I can possibly imagine it was described as having overtones of child porn in a video with a singer who is on the record having been abused as a child I had to like stop taking notes at a moment when I read that, for the level of wildly offensive, that that is, but Again, these are just like other forms of music and culture that we try to talk about.

Like, these are such snapshots of who we are. She is pointing out the feeling that the thought process of experiencing the guilt of realizing she used her body to get something and she’s putting it out there. The video is about that feeling and yet she receives. And you can still read about it. Article after article reference, after reference a ton of attention and criticism, because people assumed that this was just a song, glorifying the idea of using your body to get things it’s like, it’s literally the opposite of what she is trying to talk about. It’s just worth picking up. Because it’s important. I think for us to like really see ourselves culturally sometimes. And so, like, not only did we do the classic mix misrepresentation of a song, but like you mentioned earlier in the podcast, like this kind of like snowballs, it turns into something different to where, when me and you were going back and like really reading reviews from the time. I mean this, like literally this, these are quotes, there was a New York time review of the album at the time. And a quote was which you mentioned, she quote, plays a Lolita ish suburban party girl uh, in this music video, according to the New York times. And the title of that review was a message far less pretty than the face. Like I want to burn an entire decade of music, journalism down when I read stuff like

Kyle: luckily it’s just their political coverage and op-eds that suck now. So Thanks old Grailed lady.

Cliff: But like, I hope we’re being clear about one of the things we can do with this podcast with going back to older albums and songs is like, just pick them up out of whatever they might be mired in when you might not even realize that that’s kind of like where it’s cataloged in your brain, especially if you’re a gen X-er, right? And you were like exactly the target audience for this moment in time. If you have kind of a weird mental taste in your mouth. So to speak about this record at all, it’s worth examining whether it’s a result of some of this hugely fucked up reaction to the music that was coming out, then both like for the content of the music itself. And just this is a wildly inappropriate thing to be saying about it, period.

Kyle: Yeah, I just don’t want to call out specifically any of the really bad journalism around it. But like, she has specifically cited. If you go down a rabbit hole with the thing, she points back to eventually you’re going to find them anyway. So one thing that gave her pause around the media was a spin cover story. And in 97 it was. Or arguably as bad and offender as the New York times review. And there’s a lot of objectification type shit in it, but there’s also casual things like title was released in the breakout era of women in rock. Like I love how we just rediscover. We rediscover that, that people of color and women exists and like. Haven’t magically been the backbone of all of society the whole time. We put our 3d glasses back on and there they are in the background. You’re going to love this next bit in that same paragraph Juul and Joan Osborne held MTV by the throat that summer. That’s a cool, cool writing. And according to the media women were the new Seattle who wrote this John Weir. What a Wiener. that article is called girl trouble. Let’s lean all the way

Cliff: Oh my God.

Kyle: Pops newest star is barely 20, still lives with their parents and doesn’t have a driver’s license. Swipe right. So what is Fiona Apple doing half naked all over MTV? I don’t know. John, get the fuck

Cliff: wish I could see the like rapid activity of Kyle’s eyebrows as he like mockingly reads this stuff.

Kyle: I’m a guy that graves violence anyway, and it’s very hard to, very hard to tamp down those urges as a 230 pound Irish Aries. When I read stuff like that. Anyway, John we’re hope you’re doing great, buddy. Hope the loneliness hasn’t gotten to you yet.

Cliff: so important to hammer on this stuff because you’ll miss so much about this album. If you don’t have a clear head about it and you don’t approach it, for lack of a better term, like an adult. Hearing from another adult, like you have to remove the actuality of her age or the facts of her age at that point a little bit in order to really engage with this, because the phrase ahead of its time gets used way too much, but like, In terms of her life trajectory, like the songwriting she’s cranking out here is like ahead of her own time and it’s hard to believe. And so if you don’t come at it with the right perspective, you’ll miss so many of the details that we’ve talked about so far. And like, I just want to leave people with a few more to listen for. Because that’s really what changed listening to this for me as opposed to individual songs going a little bit more in the direction of like individual pieces of art uh, as almost silly as that sounds like letting each song come to you differently means you can do things like one of my favorite things on sleep dream, for instance, is she like listened to the way that she’s controlling her voice.

There’s At no point, does that song really start to resolve in the way that you expect it to? And several times she even intentionally builds towards an unexpected change in that’s kind of a theme throughout this album actually is like, in one of the reasons it was important to unearth it being a piano album is because it does not almost ever follow your like one, four or five, one type of progression. She’s doing wild piano chords under it. And with her vocals, she’s actually smoothing out the core transitions. She doesn’t jump intervals very much when she sings. Which is an interesting tidbit because actually she sets you up in the music to expect her to jump intervals, which is one of the things I like the most about it, but specifically sleep to dream, not only building things up, but just like having that sense of internalized rage that she’s sort of perpetuating through her vocals. She’s not just singing a song like she’s telling you about a thing. That’s just in the first track. I kept repeating that one over and over again, just to listen to details like that,

Kyle: that’s an unbelievable single by the way. And you talk about going back to what I said about propulsion that’s. That’s I think kind of the peak example that to me is like a hip hop song. Like when she was talking about production touchpoints with John Brianne and Andrew Slater, she talked about Ella Fitzgerald and Billie holiday on the one hand and hip hop, kind of on the other along sort of the same continuum.

And I think you hear all of those things and. If you wrote that out on paper, that sounds like a horrendous experiment, ready to go off the rails. But I think it speaks to her that it just all those multitudes can kind of exist as points along the same axes. And it’s a thing that works. I remember watching a deconstruction video on YouTube of Tuesday by Makonnen and Drake, and he plays the chord. Let’s air quotes, progression on the piano, breaking it down to just that element. And he points out how it never really resolves itself. And again, I’m not like a trained musician, right? I, I always look to you for those cues about what am I feeling unconsciously and like technically what is being pulled off to make that happen. And I think sleep to dream is a great example of that, where it never. The gear never catches on purpose, right? Because she’s not trying to get out of that feeling necessarily and make it resolve the closest that she does is don’t make it a big deal. Don’t be so sensitive where it just crescendos a little and then it comes right back to a simmer, to a low boil. that every bit of that is controlled. That’s Coltrane level shit, but she’s doing it as a singer songwriter where it just pulses doesn’t quite drone and it doesn’t quite pop arc. it’s, that’s masterful.

Cliff: Yeah. And, you know, you mentioned earlier shadow boxer, which has plenty to dissect in there, but like two things I wanted to draw out that are both related to what you’re saying here. First of all, I think considering the topic of shadow boxer, if you think about. The way that song would normally feel with that topic. Rightly, I mean, it’s, it’s all the way in there with the like um, shadow box and baby, I’m figuring out what you’re going to do. I want to be ready for your move, right? This song drags on in swings, almost it really slowly in a way that does it match up with what you would expect from the idea of shadow boxing, but to me again, this is where it became cerebral for me. Because a lot of times we talk about you know, a little Bob Ross happy accidents that happen with artists who like accidentally make something more meaningful than they intended. this one feels like if you applied shadow boxing to a relationship, it never happens fast.

It’s slow. It’s over time. It draws out. It feels almost longer in shorter than it should at the same time. Like it’s got this really great sense of. Off-kilter furnace in this song, which I think again, kind of builds into this theme, which is, something we would expect from someone writing music for 30 years, not necessarily on their debut album.

Kyle: it’s like she was visualizing the ESPN top 10 highlights of a relationship watching the montage play out. And the time and the editing of that would be really off-kilter with up and down moments. The swing. Of that piano rhythm really cuts through that. That’s a great way to put it.

Cliff: Yeah. And. I especially couldn’t we couldn’t do this episode without going a little bit further into never as a promise. I mentioned that earlier, like, I, I really loved the song. I really blows me away every time it was on that original demo, which is even Wilder, but like a few things to draw out here because I think. If nothing else I would argue this song is the best kind of like microcosm of all of the things that are happening on this record to draw out her pros. First of all, just like the line in general, “but as the scenery grows, I see in different lights, the shades and shadows undulate in my perception” is a stop turn off your phone disconnect from the internet line. But especially inside the context of a song with. This kind of I feel like it’s hinting at the simplicity of a usual pop song. Like never is a promise really feels like an idea that could be pretty easily executed by pretty much anyone who’s, writing a song with 30 other people and cranking it out for pop. And yet to have something that feels like a simple premise and then have lines like. Shades and shadows on delight in my perception, is that push and pull that she’s doing on purpose herself. And there’s nothing else that’s really doing that in the music other than her choice to contrast these things together. And then really draw out like the vocals and the way that she uses that, you know, I mentioned that she does this a little bit on sleep to dream, but specifically dig into the hurts me deeper line on never is a promise because she. She knows what she’s doing. Cause he’s a musician. She builds in a way that you can’t possibly imagine that she’s going to not resolve at the end of the way that she builds up and goes towards what seems like a larger chorus, a key change, anything. And she doesn’t actually, if you go back and listen to it, the music never shifts at all. It’s entirely her voice in the way that she chooses to interact with the courts that she’s playing. And then to wrap it really all up, like we mentioned the production and the way that the production matters here, because the instrumentation matters a lot here and on this song specifically uh, van Dyke park did a lot of string work here and like the work

Kyle: don’t don’t gloss over that

Cliff: okay.

Kyle: fucking Vandyke parked at a string arrangement. That’s not a casual thing. If you don’t know Fantech park, go look up Vandyke park and she’s just casually got a Vandyke park string arrangement on this record. Unbelievable.

Cliff: and it’s masterful. It will make sense to you when you listen specifically to the way the strings work in that song. But like with those three things, I feel like if you’ve got an interest in whatever lit our fire about this album, cause like there’s a, there’s like an indescribable thing

Kyle: it’s got an X factor for sure. Yeah.

Cliff: Yeah. And so if you’re interested in it or like it’s confusing to you that we would be so excited about it or whatever, like I encourage you to dig into those three facets on that one particular song to see if you can start hearing the way that she’s experimenting with music, to tell you a story, or to tell you a thing, as opposed to trying to listen to it, like an album all the way through the way you would, a lot of other music, if you’re not in the right head space, This is a fine record, I guess it’s passable, but like, it won’t really make a difference to you, but I mean, it really turns over a new leaf when you turn and face it and look at it and pay a lot of attention to it.

Kyle: Would never, it is a promise specifically, you made the comparison in the show notes as a way of illustrating. Fiona’s thinking about feeling you put it perpendicular to anti by Rihanna, which we covered recently and A direct side-by-side comparison that you can do for fun to never, as a promise is love on the brain by Rihanna.

So if you want to see how traditionally that type of direction of a piano ballad, that swells could be done love on the brain. I mean, no disrespect whatsoever by painting love on the brand, in that light, because I think I said on that episode, that that song makes me cry. Like with regularity when she takes it up to the swell place.

it’s a $10,000 firework show, but Fiona could do that with sort of the same bones here on never as a promise. And she doesn’t, and it mirrors the lack of resolve in the lyrical subject matter. And that’s, for the second time I’m going to bring up John Paul Jones on this episode, just that he can play two different instruments with his hands and his feet. At the same time, she can do that with her voice as an instrument and an actual instrument That’s genius. that’s kind of as good as it gets.

Cliff: the only thing I wanted to tack on there, since you did bring it up. It’s I don’t know why, but it’s been really difficult for me to not want to do an entire episode about anti entitled, matched up beside each other, because not only is what you’re saying true. And I thought it was interesting, but you flip this around.

The first taste on this record could be done by Rihanna tomorrow and would be the club hit of the year.

Kyle: that’s the shot? A kind of sounding song.

Cliff: yeah, just bump up the based, but like it’s got exactly what, like 20, 19, 2020 club music does. Right. It’s got that kind of like light per cassette of hollow fields and like a really chill vocal

Kyle: it’s got a, it’s got like an Afro Caribbean beat.

Cliff: Yeah. don’t know it was, it was just like an interesting way to kind of re-examine that. Cause first taste almost stands out as like one of the M the most pop oriented songs, despite it not necessarily being the biggest single. I could personally go on for hours and I, I don’t necessarily want that from myself much less for the people forced to listen to this.

But this is just yet another, like, You know, for anyone who’s listened to, you know, even a handful of episodes for us. Like I know that we kind of, oscillate between like here’s a record we love, and we’ve never not loved this record and let’s talk about it. And then over on this other kind of side is like, here’s the thing that we’re not sure if we loved or not, but we paid a lot of attention to it. And we learned in like, maybe there were some interesting things about it, but every now and then something kind of hits right in the middle. Where it’s like, oops, accidentally have a new favorite album now. And I really didn’t mean for that to happen. This is one of those, like, I’m not done listening to this and I’ve been listening to it intently for two

Kyle: yeah. And that’s the joy of this podcast now creeping up on 50 episodes. And I know there are lots of podcasts out there with hundreds of episodes, but I think this is a good as good a moment as any, to stop down and reflect on why we don’t do more of them because. One nobody’s asking for that too.

We’re not doing it as a job or not sponsored anything like that. This remains a pure of heart art project for us to just remember how to love the thing we love the most in the world and kind of live our lives accordingly. Right? I mean, this is a very meditative practice for me and couldn’t possibly overstate the impact of doing this with you, that it’s had on my life and the way that I view everything things like this experiences like this. Thousands of artists later in thousands of live shows later two decades of really intensive music discovery and listening on these moments get harder to come by, but when they do they’re so much sweeter and. All too often. Now I think the thread we’re finding again and again, as they’re right under our nose and these play, like this was a three times platinum album and I would leave MTV on for the criminal video to come on because it was so compelling to me when I was younger and it had a mystique. So going back to the original point that you made going back and recontextualizing and rediscovering this record is not only about the record itself and appreciating a piece of music in a new way, but it’s also like, what is, what mirror does this hold up to me? And then I know that’s like kind of a sappy tangent But you have mentioned a couple of different times if this is probably not your thing.

Well, thanks for listening to this much of this episode and getting to this point anyway, and even indulging us on that point. But in 2021, now a few months in please let this be a reminder to return to your spirit of openness and letting music be the thing that makes you the best possible version of yourself because it, all of that is unlocked with a key, like this record. And we debated the merits of call Fiona Apple superhuman, like Jen Pelly does in her article that she said specifically the strength that requires to be vulnerable in the way that Fiona is specifically is superhuman uh, that it takes to harness your pain and make it dance is as rare as gifts come. There’s just a lot of power in a record like this, in words. And in sounds and whether or not you want to. Compare Fiona, Apple to LeBron James, or you just want to S maybe that’s too mythological and you just want to say, damn, she’s been really good and talented. And what does that mean?

With a lot of artists and albums that kind of bar raising, whether you agree with it or not, can be kind of alienating, right? You can it feels like you’re beneath it. But there’s something so inviting about this record and the way that she pulls it off, you know, this is, she made 78 demo copies in the first one, got into somebody’s hands and exploded their brain.

I hope this encourages you wherever you are to revisit not only your fandom with music, but whatever your thing is, and open back up. And look at it with new possibilities and energy and enthusiasm and a sense of hope, which has been so hard to come by the past 1824, whatever months. And how nice would it be to find that again?

Cliff: Yeah, I’d love to end with a quote from her that I feel like really maps to that. She said, I can ride a hit. I know how that shit works. But. And I’m not trying to be modest or anything. Am I really that much more authentic? Is it really that bad out there? Yes. Yes it is. And we’re like really glad that this album existed and I’m really glad that we can take opportunities like this to decide what are we bringing to our listening experience when we pick up an album like this, and is it helpful for us to bring along our cultural ideas? The things that we remember, or our preconceived notions about what an 18 year old should be able to produce? we need to evaluate, like, if you want to take music seriously as an art form in the way that people like Fiona Apple mean it, you actually have to evaluate what you bring to every situation like this and decide. Is what I believe. And what I think about this actually helpful, or is it getting in the way of me being able to hear what someone is trying to tell me or show me, or help me experience. And so like I want more people, like you’ve said to have that kind of experience with music, but in order to do it, sometimes you do have to sit down and deconstruct. What’s getting in the way of me hearing little details, like the piano flourish on don’t be so sensitive. If you aren’t hearing that the first time, take a pause, rewind and ask yourself why you missed it. Are you doing something else? Like, Were you listening for something different? These are the types of tools, I think, that like me and you, like as we’ve gone along, I love telling people how much we learn and experience differently by choosing to listen to music like this, like in this fashion. And it’s just, it’s super rewarding. And here’s another place where, as opposed to a Husker du or a Melvins album, where we can be like, listen, active listening. Shit. Just put it on escape, dude. Like as, you know, as opposed to something like that, like this is a deeply rewarding experience and a fantastic entry to what would become just all phenomenal catalog over the last couple of decades.

Kyle: yeah you made me think of the five whys. Like how do you get to the questions that you don’t even know to ask? Fiona Apple will get you to that.  why am I stuck in this way? Why can I not hear more? That all reminds me of time we went and saw a band and I hated the opener and somebody was like, give it up for the opener. And I was like, they sucked. And he was like, it’s all just music, man. And, And I’ve never been so thrown off course by, by a casual flippant drunk remark by a lead singer of a rock and roll band or, or

Cliff: just out three 11 to me, dude. Crazy.

Kyle: And. that was the moment that made me stop being like this sucks, or this is good. And just being like, this didn’t resonate with me, or this is not for me. Right. So that was a moment that got me unstuck and I feel like genuinely made me a better person. So there’s a lot, when we talk about how this podcast made us better people. And by we, I mean, me, I don’t know, you were more light enlightened than me all along. It’s one of those things where like you ask the five why’s and you get to a new and different thing with this music. And then you start extrapolating that into the concentric circles of how you appreciate everything in your life, like how food tastes and all that sort of stuff. but title is a really potent place for us personally. And I, I hope that everybody can find. Experiences or touch points like that, like this one was for us.


We’ve curated an entire year’s worth of albums to spin, one for every single day.

If you’ve listened to TuneDig, you already know these 366 picks span history, genres, and cultures. Each day presents an album that’s fundamentally different than the one that came before it, and the one that comes after.

Original "Bitches Brew" Art

To celebrate the endless creativity of Bitches Brew—and especially its famous album artwork—TuneDig partnered with two incredible Atlanta-based artists to create one-of-a-kind, handpainted gatefolds.

With the spirit of the original art in mind, each artist brought their own vision to life. These pieces will spark conversation for any jazz fan.

Each piece includes a new vinyl copy of Bitches Brew. 100% of the purchase price goes directly to the artist, so take this opportunity to support the arts in the raddest possible way.

Seriously. There’s literally only one of each. Make it yours. 😎

TuneDig Episode 52: Alain Goraguer’s “La Planète Sauvage”

Gather ’round, sommeliers of the strange and crate-digging boogie children, for something “Strange! Frightening! Fascinating!” awaits. The soundtrack to Cannes 1973’s Jury Prize-winning film is a dazzling, surreal, avant-garde hymn to cosmic knowledge and compassion and a secret handshake among real heads. If you’re after a trip to a new dimension, here’s your one small step for man.

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TuneDig Episode 51: Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You”

Marvin Gaye’s well of soul power ran mighty deep, and deep into his career, he pulled up a bucket of ice-cold, silky smooth champagne called “I Want You.” Come for the lush instrumentation, vocal harmonies, and Leon Ware clinic; stay for the stories. For our return from hiatus, we observe a titan in his element, reflect on the pain that built him into one, and consider how to reconcile our feelings when complicated messengers deliver beauty to our door.

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TuneDig Episode 50: Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain”

Before uniting one nation under a groove, the lysergic lords of chaos in Funkadelic harnessed wild lightning into an amulet called Maggot Brain, bestowing the bearer with raw, dark power stronger than any force known to man. Between reaching our 50th episode and coping with the “maggots in the mind” of today’s universe, it felt like the right time to free our minds. We hope y’all’s asses will follow.

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TuneDig Episode 49: Alice Coltrane’s “Journey in Satchidananda”

The story of Alice Coltrane — an accomplished bebop pianist from Detroit who transcended into something far greater before walking away from public life altogether — is a glimpse into what it means to be truly free. Alice’s masterpiece "Journey in Satchidananda" is a cosmic dance that sparked creation from destruction. And in a time when we’re all desperately searching for a spark of meaning and hope, Journey abides abundantly.

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TuneDig Episode 48: Heart’s “Little Queen”

Take a moment to appreciate Ann and Nancy Wilson, who kicked down the doors of rock ‘n’ roll’s boys’ club with their peerless guitar work, soaring soul vocals, and tight songcraft. 1977’s Little Queen — an oft-overlooked gem in the classic rock canon — offers a snapshot of those elements at their most urgent and pure, powered by the Wilsons’ simple motivation (as described by their producer): “It was a war.”

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TuneDig Episode 47: Tangerine Dream’s “Phaedra”

When you think of “electronic music,” what comes to mind may not be a genre you deeply love — hip-hop, house, new wave, or even dub reggae — but all of it owes some debt, scientifically or otherwise, to Tangerine Dream. Dig in with us as we study a prime example of the band’s brand of effortful innovation, where they patiently and persistently labored at the cutting edge of electronic technology to open a portal to new worlds in our minds.

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TuneDig Episode 46: Olivia Rodrigo’s “SOUR”

Did you catch one of 2021’s biggest albums, or like us, did you almost overlook it? If you have any expectations of pop music, "SOUR" will likely subvert them. Teenage dream this is not; it’s an exquisitely universal portrait of a weird time to be alive.

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TuneDig Episode 45: Fela Kuti’s “Expensive Shit”

The story of Fela Kuti — one of the most famous people on an *entire continent* passionately struggling to liberate power to more people — is absolutely one worth deeply knowing, regardless of whether you find yourself drawn to Afrobeat or (cringe) “world music.” But once you know it, it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with Fela and Afrika 70 as their revolutionary grooves rewire your brain in magical and meaningful ways.

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TuneDig Episode 44: Meshuggah’s “ObZen”

Meshuggah’s ObZen—an artifact of human creativity pushing the limits of what’s possible—will quite literally make you hear music differently. If you’re looking for a new musical adventure, and especially if you don’t think you like “heavy” or “weird” music, consider this your sign to push past your comfort zone.

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TuneDig Episode 43: mewithoutYou’s “Catch For Us the Foxes”

A misunderstood wise man once said “Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds.” In our most personal and vulnerable episode yet, we do some seeking through the lens of songs that fill us with the bravery and sincerity to love ourselves and others fully. Dig deep with us as we fish for words about our tiny place in the universe and dance with gratitude for our ability to do so.

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For lifelong headbangers and the musically curious alike, a new podcast from TuneDig is here to push your palette with aggressive, abrasive art. Each short, fast-paced episode offers (1) a new metal, punk, noise, or experimental release we recommend, (2) a related playlist we’ve curated, and (3) a heavy issue to consider and an organization doing something about it. Join us in the void.


TuneDig Episode 41: Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew”

Let’s be clear: "Bitches Brew" is a challenging record, even to some of the best musicians in the world — but all of them say it’s worth the investment. It’s the kind of trip that, even if we *could* draw a map, it wouldn’t take you there. Let go of the need for meaning and enjoy the ride with us. We can promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised where you end up.

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TuneDig Episode 40: Fiona Apple’s “Tidal”

On the heels of one of 2020's most acclaimed albums — Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters — we revisited Apple’s debut Tidal and wound up working to extract ourselves from the mostly male gazes that made its reception … much different. We arrive at a question much like writer Jenn Pelly had: “People would constantly prod Fiona on how an 18-year-old could write songs as mature as these ... Why did they not ask instead how she became a genius?”

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TuneDig Episode 39: Death Grips’s “The Money Store”

The modern world is accelerating beyond our control, shaping our reality in ways we can’t yet perceive or understand. Enter Death Grips, an art project capturing the chaotic energy and illustrating the absurdity of our hubris in trying to harmonize the surreal and extremely real — never more perfectly than on 2012’s prescient "The Money Store".

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TuneDig Episode 38: Augustus Pablo’s “King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown”

Reggae music is easy to take for granted, but its impact is underappreciated and massive — in the case of dub in particular, everyone from Radiohead to Johnny Rotten to Run-DMC owes it a debt. Augustus Pablo and King Tubby together created what’s regarded as “one of the finest examples of dub ever recorded.” Join us as we dive into the culture, history, and unique engineering experiments that made it possible.

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TuneDig Episode 37: Rihanna’s “ANTI”

By every measure — sales, awards, chart-toppers, global name recognition — Rihanna is objectively as big as the Beatles ever were. In fact, ANTI is so big it’s still on the charts, a record five full years later. Take a closer look with us at “the record you make when you don’t need to sell records”, and get a taste of the true freedom that comes from focusing on your inner voice when faced with insurmountable expectations.

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TuneDig Episode 36: Son House’s “Father of Folk Blues”

All American music traces back to the blues, and deep at the root sits Son House. That the recordings on "Father of Folk Blues" even exist is something of a gray area that cuts to the heart of the great American myth, but wherever you land after hearing these stories, you’ll find that what matters most is what the great Muddy Waters once said of House: “That man was the king.”

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TuneDig Episode 35: Melvins’s “Stoner Witch”

The futility of describing the Melvins has stretched critics in the direction of absurd words like “Dadaist” for nearly 40 years now. They’ve belligerently flogged any attempt to pinpoint their essence simply by being themselves, but "Stoner Witch" remains a reliable mall directory for the Melvins’ vast and wild discography. Grab yourself some pretzel bites.

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TuneDig Episode 34: Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”

We should talk about Dolly the way we talk about Prince. Her extraordinary kindness and unique kitsch both make her universally loved, but what gets left out of the conversation is the very thing that made her famous: the music. Join in as we focus attention on the sonics and songwriting of the low-key masterpiece "Jolene".

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Kyle and Cliff

BONUS TRACK: How We Got Here

We got a bunch of interesting listener feedback in our off-season, and it encouraged us to shed some light on why we do things the way we do ‘em. Also, we reflect on our first writeup, which was ... interesting.

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We're Cliff (right) and Kyle (left). We’re two dudes born and raised in ATL with day jobs in tech and sustainability, respectively.

We met in middle school, and in one way or another, music’s been the thing that’s kept us close for the two decades since — whether it’s sharing and talking about new music (like this podcast, except in our texts or over beers), going to shows, or working with our favorite record stores to help them survive and thrive.

We started TuneDig as a little art project that connects us more deeply ourselves and to the world through the infinite gift of music. We hope you’ll join us for the conversations, let us know what you think, and share discoveries of your own.

More About TuneDig

TuneDig began as a little something called MusicGrid.me, which we created after realizing there was no place online to directly exchange music recommendations with your friends. Our aim was simple: to make rating albums simple, useful, and social. We got some love from places like MashableWiredEvolver.fm, and Hypebot. We managed to foster conversation between music lovers, get thousands of reviews, and meet great people.

Along the way, we realized that record stores were an essential part of the music lovers’ community. After many a conversation about how we could helpfully connect them to the people who loved them, we began helping them leverage technology to create new revenue streams and embrace streaming services without giving up what’s unique to them: expertise and curation. (Long live the counter clerk who knows exactly which record will be the right introduction to jazz fusion!)

TuneDig is our vision to connect music lovers with the music they love, because no matter how much has changed in the way we discover and enjoy music, recommendations from people you trust and respect will always be the best way to find new music you’ll dig. With this podcast, we’re channeling the spirit of trusted curation pioneered by record stores, and bringing you something to take you deeper into music you can love.