Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
Fiona's most mature and impressively realized LP to date
Fiona Apple's career is marked by no shortage of public drama, which tends to overshadow the brilliance of her songwriting and the raw power of her voice. Extraordinary Machine, Apple's third album, is borne of a typically difficult scenario: It was initially shelved by her label, but after recordings helmed by longtime collaborator Jon Brion leaked to the internet, a second version of the album, produced by Mike Elizondo, was released in 2005.
Understandably, many listeners have grown attached to the original Brion arrangements, but the finished recordings with Elizondo are remarkable, and in most respects outshine the earlier versions simply by keeping Apple's compositions clean and uncluttered. Notwithstanding the youthful angst of her debut, Apple had always been a rather mature songwriter, but Extraordinary Machine is a showcase for material displaying meticulous craft and a more adult perspective on romantic relationships. Though she still occasionally overwrites her lyrics, a large chunk of the album is divided between clever bon mots like "home is where my habits have a habitat" and impressive extended metaphors, as in a verse comparing the mining of diamonds to the futility of trying to break through to an indifferent lover in the slow-burning ballad "Red, Red, Red." She's never sounded more focused and clear-headed, and the result is a record that makes good on the promise of her debut while hinting at even better material in the years to come.