Fiona Apple: "Every Single Night"


By Maura McAndrew | 15 May 2012

Few are as good as Fiona Apple at making beautiful music that sounds ready to crack. The perfect combination of Extraordinary Machine’s (2005) old-fashioned ballads and the quirkier, more aggressive sound of When the Pawn… (1999), “Every Single Night” is an excellent study in Apple’s preferred brand of edgy neurosis.

She sings here about fighting with her brain and the words and ideas churning within, keeping her from sleep. Imagery like “butterflies in my brain” recalls one of Apple’s best songs, “Fast as You Can,” in which she memorably declared, “Sometimes my mind don’t shake and shift / But most of the time it does.” “Every Single Night” also shares with that song an element of the grotesque, with all its evocative talk about a second skeleton, a chest opening up, and “The rib is the shell / And the heart is the yolk / And I just made a meal / For us both to choke on.” Not many can pull off lines like those with such spooky conviction.

Because of Apple’s reputation as a woman for whom sanity doesn’t come easy, she doesn’t always get the credit she deserves for her emotional, enrapturing vocal performances. On almost every song she’s nothing less than fiery, passionate, possessed; more like a gospel singer in spirit than an indie chanteuse. This is certainly true of “Every Single Night,” which takes short, simple lyrics like “I just wanna feel everything” and draws them out into a kind of whispered howl. The focus here is entirely on Apple’s fragile, scattershot vocals, backed by spare, bell-like keyboards and a gently rolling snare. Her voice wavers but keeps on key, flitting from low and strong to delicate in her upper register.

She’s got a talent for the tactile, like scratching a patch of skin raw, and on “Every Single Night” she once again pulls off the trick that makes her so unique: turning vulnerability into strength, becoming, ultimately, a little scary rather than a little scared.