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Fiona Apple's fourth LP: The anticipation starts here

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The Year of Our Lord 2011 is shaping up to be an awesome year for long-awaited album releases, isn't it?

Gang of Four! Gregg Allman! Wire! Wanda Jackson! Cake! A P.J. Harvey auto-harp album, even!

But Gimme Noise is most stoked for Fiona Apple's as-yet-untitled fourth LP, of which we've yet to hear a single blessed note.

My love for Apple began with a lengthy excoriation of her near-pornographic "Criminal" video clip that I wrote as a college junior appeared in the campus newspaper; thankfully, I can't find it anywhere online.

Eventually, though, I fell in love with her bluesy, smokey vocal tone - captivated hopelessly by the energy and copiousness of self invested in emotionally devastating pop narratives - and the alternately caramelized and hyperactive arrangements Apple and her various producers and collaborators (Svenvali extraordinare Jon Brion and Eminem house keyboard player Mike Elizondo among them); 1999's When the Pawn... spent the entire fall of 1999 - post-graduate, living in the sticks of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, working a demanding entry-level newspaper job, crazy isolated - in a sort of perpetual shuffle between my bedroom and my car's CD player, acquiring tons of scratches and etching itself deep into mixed memories of that particular time and place.

The five-year wait between the long-delayed (and amazing) Extraordinary Machine and the present has been excruciating, and the crush of pretenders to her almost-improv-jazz-style-approach throne - Regina Spector, Megan Joy Corkrey, a dozen plus others I'm forgetting now - can't hold a smoldering Lilith Fair programme to lickety-split sonic scat-crack like "Fast As You Can" or the world-weary strut of "Please Please Please."

By now, we've all heard "So Sleepy," right? Straightforward in a folk-y way, that one-off felt surprisingly light and lithe and sunkissed for Apple, a pleasant tangent that probably doesn't signal what we can expect from her forthcoming full-length.

In the interest of saving you some time, I've scoured the Internets for info. Know something I don't? Got a leak? Post it in the comments section. Let's play this forward, folks!

--Check out this Apple interview, which feels like a cross between a commercial, a documentary, and a memorist's exercise and has nothing much to do with the new album, but serves as a reminder of how exciting it can be to hear ideas and words and exclamation marks tumble out of her mouth.

--Divinyls drummer Charley Drayton will co-produce the album with Apple. He did not, I should note, have a hand in the writing of "I Touch Myself." Fun facts: Drayton drummed on the Rolling Stones' Dirty Work, played bass on The Cult's Ceremony, and has recorded with everyone from Michelle Branch to Herbie Hancock to Iggy Pop. What does that information portend? I have absolutely no idea, but the mind fairly reels, doesn't it?

--Apple and Quentin Tarantino in conversation. Totally surreal, with lots of references to cum shots and audience ejaculation and stuff and dissection of the misery of being a mainstream pop icon. Don't watch this at work, okay? Unless your boss is the coolest boss ever.

--The new album will be "challenging." According to an interview with Apple: "I've written things that are a little more challenging for me to play and a little more challenging for me to sing because I know that [Drayton] is going to be with me and that I'm going to get that feeling of focus and dedication to every single thing that I get when I'm around [Drayton]."

--This isn't really news, but you did catch her cover of Cy Coleman's "Why Try To Change Me Now" when it hit the Web last year, right? Right? It's sort of Vegas, yeah? On some draped-over-a-lounge-piano-in-a-mink-stole Vegas shit.

--So basically, pretty much every recent blog post about this album regurgitates what was said in every other recent blog post, creating an online echo chamber where nothing new is said, which is totally exhausting and frustrating and serves to sort of ramp up the excitement for this album to a fever pitch - for Gimme Noise, anyway. In short: nobody really knows anything just yet. Where was the record recorded? How much did it cost to record it? Who or what served as inspiration? Were there guest performers of note? No idea. None. Nada. Jesus.

--Michelle Branch - who obviously has awesome industry connections - Tweeted about the album a few weeks ago: "Hate to brag but I heard a couple new Fiona Apple tracks today. Amazing."

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