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Alternative & Indie - Released April 17, 2020 | Epic

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Time, mercifully, has not softened Fiona Apple's edges. Her long-awaited fifth album is exciting, nervy and seemingly on the verge of collapse. Apple lets it bleed without running over the edge. On "I Want You to Love Me," her voice is Mama Cass strong; she holds notes to the point that they become something else. "Shameika" and "Cosmonauts" are sonic tornadoes, while the title track is madness with its rushed vocals, chanted chorus ("Fetch the bolt cutters/I've been in here too long"), percussive manic typing, and a barking dog. Apple's humor remains wickedly sharp. "Under The Table" is laugh out loud funny, about a dreaded dinner party: "Kick me under the table all you want, I won't shut up." Over a bed of baroque or even circus sideshow piano, she tries on Lizzo-worthy sass for "Rack of His" ("Check out that rack of his! / Look at that row of guitar necks"). Occasionally, it's all breathtaking: "For Her" snaps from playground chants fueled by #MeToo fury to a soaring swell of "Good morning! You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in." As powerful as anything she's ever made. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz

Alternative & Indie - Released July 23, 1996 | Clean Slate - Work


Pop - Released November 9, 1999 | Clean Slate - Epic

Fiona Apple may have been grouped in with the other female singer/songwriters who dominated the pop charts in 1996 and 1997, but she stood out by virtue of her grand ambitions and considerable musical sophistication. Even though her 1996 debut Tidal occasionally was hampered by naiveté, it showcased a gifted young artist in the process of finding her voice. Even so, the artistic leap between Tidal and its long-awaited 1999 sequel When the Pawn Hits... is startling. It's evident that not only have Apple's ambitions grown, so has her confidence -- few artists would open themselves up to the ridicule that comes with having a 90-word poem function as the full title, but that captures the fearless feeling of the record. Apple doesn't break from the jazzy pop of Tidal on Pawn, choosing instead to refine her sound and then expand its horizons. Although there are echoes of everything from Nina Simone to Aimee Mann on the record, it's not easy to spot specific influences, because this is truly an individual work. As a songwriter, she balances her words and melodies skillfully, no longer sounding self-conscious as she crafts highly personal, slightly cryptic songs that never sound precocious or insular. With producer Jon Brion, she created the ideal arrangements for these idiosyncratic songs, finding a multi-layered sound that's simultaneously elegant and carnival-esque. As a result, Pawn is immediately grabbing, and instead of fading upon further plays, it reveals more with each listen, whether it's a lyrical turn of phrase or an unexpected twist in the arrangement; what's more, Apple has made it as rich emotionally as it is musically. That's quite a feat for any album, but it's doubly impressive since it is only the second effort by a musician who is only 22 years old. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

Pop - Released October 4, 2005 | Epic - Clean Slate

To say that the released version of Extraordinary Machine is a marked improvement over the bootlegged version is not to say that it sounds more complete -- after all, the booted Jon Brion productions sounded finished, as evidenced by the two cuts that were retained; the intricate chamber pop of the opening title track and the closing "Waltz (Better Than Fine)" are the only time Brion's productions not only suited, but enhanced Fiona Apple's songs -- but they are both more accessible, and more fully realized, letting Apple's songs breathe in a way they didn't on the original sessions. While Brion's productions were interesting, they stretched his carnivalesque aesthetic to the limit, ultimately obscuring Apple's songs, which were already fussier, artier, and more oblique than her previous work. When matched to Brion's elaborately detailed productions, her music became an impenetrable Wall of Sound, but Mike Elizondo's productions open these songs up, making it easier to hear Apple's songs while retaining most of her eccentricities. Now, Extraordinary Machine sounds like a brighter, streamlined version of When the Pawn, lacking the idiosyncratic arrangement and instrumentation of that record, yet retaining the artiness of the songs themselves. Like her second record, this album is not immediate; it takes time for the songs to sink in, to let the melodies unfold, and decode her laborious words (she still has the unfortunate tendency to overwrite: "A voice once stentorian is now again/Meek and muffled"). Unlike the Brion-produced sessions, peeling away the layers on Extraordinary Machine is not hard work, since it not only has a welcoming veneer, but there are plenty of things that capture the imagination upon first listen -- the pulsating piano on "Get Him Back," the moodiness of "O' Sailor," the coiled bluesy "Better Version of Me," the quiet intensity of the breakup saga "Window," the insistent chorus on "Please Please Please" -- which gives listeners a reason to return and invest time in the album. And once they do go back for repeated listens, Extraordinary Machine becomes as rewarding, if not quite as distinctive, as When the Pawn. Nevertheless, this is neither a return to the sultry, searching balladeering of Tidal, nor a record that will bring her closer to tasteful, classy Norah Jones territory, thereby making her a more commercial artist again. Extraordinary Machine may be more accessible, but it remains an art-pop album in its attitude, intent, and presentation -- it's just that the presentation is cleaner, making her attitude appealing and her intent easier to ascertain, and that's what makes this final, finished Extraordinary Machine something pretty close to extraordinary. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

Alternative & Indie - Released November 20, 1999 | Epic


Pop - Released February 14, 2006 | Epic


Pop - Released October 11, 2005 | Epic