The fruit of Fiona’s labor

Hard to imagine that we first discussed the Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine way back on March 7.

Today, we see another interesting discussion on the Fiona Apple situation, this time in Music’s backyard: from the Los Angeles Times (via Newsday):

A remarkable progression

In her first two albums, Apple emerged as a songwriter who could twist the conventions of the confessional lyric into intriguingly distinctive shapes, drawing on a dysfunctional upbringing to bring a rare candor to her scenarios of romantic obsession. The vehemence of her delivery made it seem as if a therapist’s couch must have been part of the studio furnishing.

Her singing wasn’t what you’d expect from such a waiflike figure – her voice was authoritative, low, and smoky with jazzy inflections, evoking comparisons to Nina Simone. On "Pawn," producer Jon Brion’s pop-cabaret instrumental backing was unobtrusive, framing her singing with a flavorful but restrained mix of pop instrumentation and string arrangements.

In "Not About Love," the strings are as vivid and dimensional as an animated cartoon character, serving not as a static frame but as a true foil for Fiona, stomping ominously into the Randy Newman-like bridge, then billowing out into an aural ballroom dance.
The scrap-yard symphony of the bouncy "Used to Love Him" also evokes grainy old cartoons, and in its structure and scope the title song suggests a Broadway production number. Underscoring a new search for variety, "Get Him Back" is a ramshackle rocker built on the "Wooly Bully" riff, and "Better Version of Me" is soaked with chimes and carnival-like swirls.

Apple’s singing is supple, spontaneous and eccentrically personal throughout the 11 songs, and Brion’s more aggressive approach draws out more of her humor, always a crucial if subtle ingredient in her music.

Not that she’s turned all sunny. Through all these stretches, Apple chronicles obsession masterfully, capturing the exhilarating balance of excitement and terror that comes with not being in control. "I think he let me down when he didn’t disappoint me," she sings in "Get Him Back," distilling her perverse need to be let down.

And in the six-minute blues-noir epic "Oh Sailor," she offers what may be her ultimate self-defining verse: "Everything good I deem too good to be true/Everything else is just a bore/Everything I have to look forward to/Has a pretty painful and very imposing before."

The fans might be chanting "Free Fiona," but it’s pretty clear from this music that she’s been freed as an artist.


The fruit of Fiona’s labor
Unreleased Apple CD, ‘Extraordinary Machine,’ spills out on Web, fanning dispute with label
Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2005,0,2445696.story

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