Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine was released this month after being in limbo with Sony for over a year. Although her die-hard fans put up a website to get her songs out to the public, according to The New Yorker piece by Sasha-Frere Jones, Fiona was the one who held up her own project. She wasn’t completely happy with Jon Brion’s production of some of the new material; however, on the new release he still has credit for two of the best tracks on this album.
The title track has Fiona accompanied by an orchestra and flows jauntily along, punctuated by a large bell. Fiona sounds strong and in control of her bobo eccentricities as she sings, “If there was a better way to go then it would find me/I can’t help it, the road just rolls out behind me/be kind to me, or treat me mean/I’ll make the most of it, I’m an extraordinary machine.”
“Waltz (better than fine)” has Fiona on the keys and some sweet, old-fashioned sounding strings to back her up. Even if we have no date, Fiona’s rich, wavering alto instructs us to, “go out and sit on the lawn and do nothing.”And that’s exactly what she’s doing on the back cover of this critically acclaimed album. She’s looking gorgeous in a white dress with oranges scattered in the background on the grass. Take that, Paul Thomas Anderson.
“Tymps (the sick in the head song)” is tropical hip-hop reggae lite that includes a mellotron, fuzz clavinet, marimbas, a wurlizter and the kitchen sink among other things. All the instruments weave among Fiona’s signature clever wordplay creating an addictive dance number about love relapse.
Whether you like the Jon Brion version you can download, or the actual CD mostly produced by Mike Elizondo, there is much Fiona to be cherished here. It looks like our girl has grown up, rose out of the ashes of a failed relationship, and created a brilliant, complicated piece which definitely lives up to its name.