CD Reviews

Oct 052005
Authors: The Verve

Fiona Apple, "Extraordinary Machine"

A six-year hiatus, a desperate fan base, a harsh breakup and a house without furniture are what have been the whereabouts of this extraordinary female artist since 1999.

And why a hiatus, you ask? Well, Fiona Apple found solace in carving sculptures out of wood with a razor in her grassy yard and spent a lot of the time taking long walks, watching movies and getting to know just how fascinating and complex she really is.

Categorized away from any other contemporary artist in her time, Fiona Apple doesn't try to swim against the current; she is simply programmed to do so.

Critics could say that she is stubborn or selfish in her music making, being that she only has it her way. A more fitting description would be that she represents an individual power; she is a woman whose way, is a highway.

Distinguished by her electric owl-eyes, her "no-joke" face and her incredibly emotional stage presence, it is no wonder why the music scene has been longing for her imminent return.

On her new album, perfectly entitled "Extraordinary Machine," she has enlisted producer Jon Brion (who worked with Kanye West), and producer Mike Elizondo (Eminem, Dr, Dre), to make an album that is in no way hip-hop, but is definitely unlike anything that has been heard in the music scene.

"Get Him Back" features some heavy, low and aggressive piano keys for which Apple is notorious, and a sturdy drum beat, complements of the Roots' Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, who helps perpetuate the song with hip-hop fury and persistence.

The album opener, "Extraordinary Machine," starts the album with quiet, finger-picked orchestral strings and various creeping oboes, marimbas, French horns, trumpets and flutes.

The song recalls a musical – Fiona's voice echoes a lullaby and it's easy to understand the significance that her love of reading plays has had on her music – and the strength of this woman is dignified in the lyrics: "Be kind to me, or treat me mean/I'll make the most of it, I'm an extraordinary machine."

The song "Better Version of Me," comes as a breathe of fresh air. At the 1997 Video Music Awards, Apple had received an award but shocked the audience by saying, "This world is bull__t!" so, it is nice to see that she has been feeling better, although it was hilarious to hear that phrase live.

With "Tymps, (The Sick In The Head Song)," Apple scrambles about in her self-doubt again when she says: "I'm either so sick in the head. I need to be bled dry to quit/or, I just really used to love him, I sure hope that's it," and says good riddance to that in the song "Parting Gift" when she says: "Oh, you silly, stupid pastime of mine."

"Oh Well," magnifies Fiona's beautiful piano craftsmanship and the orchestral arrangements in the background help to channel her somber voice as if it were an instrument in and of itself. ?uestlove of the Roots returns on the bluesy "Not About Love," in which Apple jump-starts her feminine rage and also lights up her lonesomeness: "This is not about love/Because I am not in love/In fact, I can't stop falling out."

Perhaps Fiona Apple's future is best captured in the last song "Waltz," in which she forgets about her hardships and avoids any sense of fear by singing: "Everybody else's goal's to get big-headed/why should I follow that beat? Being that, I'm better than fine."

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