Extraordinary Machine

Extraordinary Machine

After a six-year official silence and turmoil surrounding the making of this album — she ultimately re-recorded it with a second producer, hip-hop specialist Mike Elizondo, taking over from Jon Brion — it's a pleasure and a surprise to find that Extraordinary Machine is ultimately Fiona Apple's best work yet. The arty textures of her previous work with Brion are hardly gone; the real news here is the charm and wry humor that now often accompany the singer/songwriter's musings about life and love. ("It ended bad, but I love what we started" is only one of a row of striking observations in "Parting Gift.") There are also powerful currents roiling beneath all this; she ends up smashing a (figurative?) "Window" rather than "him, or her, or me." Whether she intended to or not, Apple has raised the bar for everyone else with this work.

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