Monday, September 28, 2009

Fiona Apple – 'Extraordinary Machine'

Rising from the ashes of delays and leaked tracks, shut downs and protests, Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine proved four years ago (all the way back in 2005) that it was, truly, extraordinary.

If you’re any kind of Fiona Apple fan then you know at least part of the story. Girl makes album, album gets delayed, speculation arises, controversy ensues and said controversy continues on for two years. But then on October 4, 2005, all the drama came to a close when Apple released—in my opinion—one of the best records of the decade.

The framework of Extraordinary Machine is playful and stinging. Its ground-sewn beats and embellished lyrics are organic, quirky and imperfect. And the album art echoes that sentiment.

Rumored to be snapped by Apple herself in her own backyard, the jacket of the album (as well as of the vinyl my girlfriend bought for me just last week) features the picture of a pre-budding Agapanthus flower, more commonly referred to as the “Lily of the Nile.”

I see every little seed pod within the plant’s leafy cocoon representing the different tracks on this album, each on its own journey of growth and development. These seeds will someday soon bloom into the beautiful creation they set out to be, but it will take time and patience for each to fully reach its potential.

With all of Apple’s lyrical riddles and harmonic puzzles, it seems the album art for Extraordinary Machine is her last—and most immediately visible—metaphor. It’s genius, really, from the awkward plumbing text to the soft frame of green, pink and blue hues.

The album itself is a testament to self-betterment as well as learning from and accepting imperfections—a stray from Apple’s earlier works. It’s quickly apparent through interviews and her own recollection that she has grown a lot in the six years between her 1999 release When The Pawn and Extraordinary Machine in 2005.

As she warns on the album’s title track: “If there was a better way to go then it would find me/I can’t help it the road just rose out behind me/Be kind to me, or treat me mean/I’ll make the most of it, I’m an Extraordinary Machine.”

A self-proclaimed extraordinary machine, maybe Apple herself is the pod on the brink of finally blooming. Her music has evolved and sharpened tremendously, granting her major critical acclaim that includes having the #1 album of 2005 for Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times and Slant magazine as well as landing in the top 5 for The Village Voice, Blender and Rolling Stone.

It’s exciting (and a little scary) to wonder what the future holds for such a keen yet unpredictable artist. As long as the seeds are planted, the rain falls and the sun shines, I’ve learned that with this artist anything is possible.