36.) Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine (2005)
Extraordinary Machine has a long, torrid history which I don't necessarily want to get into. If you don't know it go to it's wikipedia page. I'll say this though, there are two versions of the record which are readily available and which you may have heard - I prefer the Mike Elizondo produced version and that's the one that finds itself here at number 36.
I often call Fiona Apple an underrated artist, but I'm not sure whether or not that's true. Critics usually praise her records and few artists inspire such devotion from fans as she does, but you never hear Fiona come up when talk turns to pantheon artists of her generation and I tend to think this has more to do with her personality than it does her music. Apple has had a few highly publicized meltdowns and yeah, she seems a little nuts, but fuck that - have you heard the records?
It's obvious I'm pro-Fiona. I like her because I think she's a little nuts and because she doesn't give a shit about it. She embraces it and if that's how she manages to be able to write songs like "Oh Well" and "Not About Love" than so be it. I think that no matter where we think we are in this country as it relates to women, we still have a hard time with balls out female artists who don't abide by some code set for them by an antiquated society. Not to be the one to toot the feminism horn here, but when dude artists are nuts they're usually considered geniuses while women are deemed difficult.
And difficult Fiona Apple is, but not in that way. She's difficult because she's challenging, emotional, puzzling and brave. She's a tried and true artist working in a world of phonies, a proud basket case amongst a bunch of pr trained "celebrities" and Extraordinary Machine is her masterpiece.
Extraordinary Machine opens with the title track and de facto Fiona Apple manifesto ("Be kind to me or treat me mean/I'll make the most of it/I'm an extraordinary machine) with chamber pop orchestration from Jon Brion (one of two tracks that carried over from the original sessions). It's one of Apple's best songs - arty and fussy without being over the top, which seemed to be the record's mantra.
She never takes the easy way out and that should be respected and since the finished product is so awe-inspiring it should damn well be praised. Extraordinary Machine is a record that I heard at a particular moment in time where it really stuck out. I was going through some shit, Fiona was going through some shit and we sort of met in the middle. I won't get into it, but I'll say I hold a very special place in my heart for Extraordinary Machine. That it has stood the test of time all these years later and with me in a completely different place, is a testament to the artist herself and artist who I sincerely hope we'll be hearing from again. A pantheon artist.
Posted by Pat Driscoll