Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Remember back in 2005 when Extraordinary Machine came out reminding us of why we initially fell in love with Fiona Apple and confirming that she was well worth the wait?  Well now here we are in 2012, and after another lengthy hiatus the indie/pop goddess has graced us with a fourth album and once again our patience has been duly rewarded.  Where Extraordinary Machine found her at the sunniest we've ever seen her with songs like the title track and "Better Version of Me," on this latest offering she's more of the angsty, sullen girl we met on Tidal back in 1996.  In "Valentine" she sings about cutting herself (hopefully only figuratively) and wonders how she can ask someone to love her when all she does is beg to be left alone ("Left Alone").

The major difference is that this album could have just as easily been titled Tribal (It would have been less of a mouthful than the 23 word moniker it ended up with).  From the guttural wails on the opener "Every Single Night," to the rumbling drums and overlapping vocals on the closer "Hot Knife" every track feels raw and primal.  "Periphery" contains what sounds like marching feet on gravel, and on "Werewolf" she seems to be yelling at her lover over a pack of screaming children.  Thematically this is nothing new for her.  Her famously poetic lyrics lay her emotions so bare that she might as well be singing stark naked.  On past albums though, this emotional nakedness was often accompanied by lush strings, plaintive horns and Apple's own sturdy piano, making her the alterna-jazz chanteuse that provided the soundtrack to all of your break-ups.  This time however, the instrumentation is so stripped down and simple it borders on experimental but, in the end, the arrangements work by punctuating the visceral lyrics.  As she sings in "Every Single Night" she just 'wants to feel everything' and apparently she wants us to do the same.

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