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Fiona Apple|Extraordinary Machine

Extraordinary Machine

Fiona Apple

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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

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Extraordinary Machine

Fiona Apple

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1
Extraordinary Machine (Album Version)
00:03:43

Dave Way, Mixing Engineer - Tom Biller, Engineer - Jon Brion, Producer - Jon Brion, Marimba - Jon Brion, Orchestrator - Fiona Apple, Composer - Fiona Apple, Performer - Fiona Apple, Lyricist

(P) 2005 Epic Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

2
Get Him Back (New Album Version w/o Sample)
00:05:24

Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, Drums - Dave Way, Mixing Engineer - Keefus Ciancia, Bass - Mike Elizondo, Producer - Mike Elizondo, Engineer - Adam Hawkins, Engineer - Fiona Apple, Composer - Fiona Apple, Piano - Fiona Apple, Lyricist - Fiona Apple, Performer - Brian Kehew, Co-Producer

(P) 2005 Epic Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

3
O' Sailor (Album Version)
00:05:35

Fiona Apple, Composer - Fiona Apple, Lyricist - Fiona Apple, Piano - Fiona Apple, Performer - Jebin Bruni, Keyboards - Glenn Berger, Flute - Dave Way, Mixing Engineer - Zac Rae, Keyboards - Brian Kehew, Co-Producer - Brian Gardner, Mastering Engineer - Mike Elizondo, Producer - Adam Hawkins, Recording Engineer - Abe Laboriel, Jr., Drums

(P) 2005 Epic Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

4
Better Version Of Me (Album Version)
00:02:59

Fiona Apple, Composer - Fiona Apple, Lyricist - Fiona Apple, Piano - Fiona Apple, Performer - George Thatcher, Trombone - Glenn Berger, Saxophone - Dave Way, Mixing Engineer - Brian Kehew, Guitar - Brian Kehew, Co-Producer - Brian Kehew, Keyboards - John Daversa, Arranger - John Daversa, Trumpet - Mike Elizondo, Producer - Mike Elizondo, Engineer - Mike Elizondo, Bass - Adam Hawkins, Engineer - Abe Laboriel, Jr., Percussion - Abe Laboriel, Jr., Drums

(P) 2005 Epic Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

5
Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song) (Album Version)
00:04:03

Zac Rae, Marimba - Zac Rae, Keyboards - Abe Laboriel, Jr., Drums - Dave Way, Mixing Engineer - Mike Elizondo, Producer - Mike Elizondo, Engineer - Mike Elizondo, Drum Programmer - Mike Elizondo, Bass - Adam Hawkins, Engineer - Fiona Apple, Composer - Fiona Apple, Lyricist - Fiona Apple, Piano - Fiona Apple, Performer - Brian Kehew, Co-Producer

(P) 2005 Epic Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

6
Parting Gift (Album Version)
00:03:34

Dave Way, Mixing Engineer - Mike Elizondo, Producer - Mike Elizondo, Engineer - Adam Hawkins, Engineer - Fiona Apple, Composer - Fiona Apple, Piano - Fiona Apple, Performer - Fiona Apple, Lyricist - Brian Kehew, Co-Producer

(P) 2005 Epic Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

7
Window (Album Version)
00:05:31

Fiona Apple, Composer - Fiona Apple, Lyricist - Fiona Apple, Piano - Fiona Apple, Performer - Roger Joseph Manning Jr., Keyboards - George Thatcher, Trombone - Glenn Berger, Saxophone - Dave Way, Mixing Engineer - Brian Kehew, Co-Producer - John Daversa, Arranger - John Daversa, Trumpet - Mike Elizondo, Producer - Mike Elizondo, Engineer - Mike Elizondo, Programmer - Mike Elizondo, Bass - Adam Hawkins, Engineer - Abe Laboriel, Jr., Drums - Abe Laboriel, Jr., Programmer - Dave Palmer, Keyboards

(P) 2005 Epic Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

8
Oh Well (Album Version)
00:03:40

Fiona Apple, Lyricist - Fiona Apple, Piano - Fiona Apple, Performer - Fiona Apple, Composer - Roger Joseph Manning Jr., Keyboards - Dave Way, Mixing Engineer - Brian Kehew, Guitar - Brian Kehew, Co-Producer - Brad Warnaar, French Horn - Mike Elizondo, Producer - Mike Elizondo, Engineer - Adam Hawkins, Engineer - Abe Laboriel, Jr., Drums - Dave Palmer, Keyboards

(P) 2005 Epic Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

9
Please Please Please (Album Version)
00:03:33

Zac Rae, Keyboards - Abe Laboriel, Jr., Drums - Dave Way, Mixing Engineer - Mike Elizondo, Producer - Mike Elizondo, Guitar - Mike Elizondo, Engineer - Mike Elizondo, Bass - Adam Hawkins, Engineer - Fiona Apple, Composer - Fiona Apple, Lyricist - Fiona Apple, Performer - Brian Kehew, Co-Producer

(P) 2005 Epic Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

10
Red Red Red (Album Version)
00:04:08

Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, Drums - Dave Way, Mixing Engineer - Keefus Ciancia, Bass - Mike Elizondo, Producer - Mike Elizondo, Engineer - Adam Hawkins, Engineer - Fiona Apple, Composer - Fiona Apple, Piano - Fiona Apple, Lyricist - Fiona Apple, Performer - Brian Kehew, Co-Producer

(P) 2005 Epic Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

11
Not About Love (Album Version)
00:04:19

Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, Drums - Dave Way, Mixing Engineer - Keefus Ciancia, Bass - Mike Elizondo, Producer - Mike Elizondo, Engineer - Adam Hawkins, Engineer - Fiona Apple, Composer - Fiona Apple, Piano - Fiona Apple, Lyricist - Fiona Apple, Performer - Brian Kehew, Co-Producer

(P) 2005 Epic Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

12
Waltz (Better Than Fine) (Album Version)
00:03:46

Dave Way, Mixing Engineer - Tom Biller, Engineer - Benmont Tench, Organ - Jon Brion, Producer - Jon Brion, Bass - Patrick Warren, Orchestrator - Jim Keltner, Drums - Fiona Apple, Composer - Fiona Apple, Piano - Fiona Apple, Lyricist - Fiona Apple, Performer

(P) 2005 Epic Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

Album Description

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

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