Fiona Apple: Extraordinary Machine

By Derek Wright

In 1996, Weezer took a five-year hiatus. By the time the band’s next album was released in 2001, its two LPs had grown to cult status. Though the band had significant commercial success, the down time allowed casual listeners to drift away, while manic fans combed the Internet for every note, every interview, everything Weezer they could find. When the band’s third full-length was released, the anticipation was at a fever pitch.

The same can be said for Fiona Apple. In the six years since her last release, the 28-year-old songstress battled depression, overcame her own lethargy, had an album shelved by her record company, stopped working with producer extraordinaire Jon Brion and ultimately quit the music business.

Only after two years of petitions and fan protest did the elusive songwriter come out of hiding.

The problem with Apple’s route to re-stardom is the same Weezer faced. The comeback album can never live up to the mythology surrounding it, no matter how good (Apple) or bad (Weezer) it may be.

And Apple’s is, in fact, good.

For an artist once praised and panned for her scorned-woman concertos, she has grown to incorporate a greater ambiance and scope into her music. Though the Brion version included his trademark orchestral chamber pop, Apple’s second go-round with “Extraordinary Machine” is far from minimal. The dozen songs do not form instantly, and the piano-driven release transforms from sultry atmospheric gems to jagged, matter-of-fact, moments.

Though it’s not the epic release anticipated, it may still be life-altering. Even if the only life it changes is Apple’s.