Fiona Apple, brooding, brainy belter and capital-A artist of near forbidding depth, begins her much gossiped-over third CD on a lark. The title track, one of two songs produced by Jon Brion before the label dispute that prompted hip-hop producer Mike Elizondo (50 Cent, Eminem) to step in, sounds like a Judy Garland number slathered with irony or something Rufus Wainwright might have had a hand in--strings soar, beats bump around skittishly, and notes require a ladder. But playful as it is, by the time the chorus kicks in it's clear why the world has missed Fiona Apple so much. Young female artists who have stepped into the spotlight since she fled it six years ago-- Nellie McKay and Joss Stone spring to mind for their cleverness and heat, respectively--seem slight in comparison. With every track ticked off, in fact, Extraordinary Machine
moves listeners a little closer to what might be a correct assumption: that everything they've dipped into since 1999's When the Pawn ...
was filler. Fans will feel it especially on "O'Sailor," a gimlet-eyed lament, and "Tymps," a tight piano track with a tip of the hat to hip-hop. It's "Window," though, with its lyric about "a filthy pane of glass" fogging up a clear view, that sums up the experience of this CD best. "I had to break the window," Apple sings, smoky-voiced as ever. "It just had to be." With Extraordinary Machine,
she shatters already sky-high expectations. -Tammy La Gorce
Fiona Apple ~ Extraordinary Machine