Friday, September 30, 2005

comparing Apple and oranges

Okay. That's a lame title. None the less, most of the people who read my blog know already that Fiona Apple's new album comes out next week and that it's been pre-released on

Having been listening to the pirated unreleased version of the album for about a month (that's right. I'm a pirate), it's a very interesting experience to listen to the finished versions of these songs. As I told Manda yesterday, it's an odd feeling to sing along to a new album upon first listening.

So, I thought I'd jot down my thoughts on the new tracks in case anyone is interested. As with all of her other material, I highly recommend taking a good close listen to this album. Without a doubt, I think Fiona Apple is the best lyricist around these days. There is such an incredible wit and wisdom to her lyrics, and such a heart-wrenchingly bittersweet honesty to everything. She has a way of writing that makes me feel as though my own version of similar emotions equate to little more than 7th grade sad girl poetry by comparison.

Anyway, the first track I heard of her new stuff was the title track, Extraordinary Machine. I'm thrilled to find that they've decided to go with it as the first track on the new album. It's fun; plain and simple. The arrangement is the same, much to my happy surprise. As far as I can tell, the sole difference is in the EQ of the tracks (the cellos and basses particularly have less pluck and more boom than the original).

Unfortunately, Get Him Back (track 2) has been retouched and it's production varied from the original version. I find that it's one of only two songs on the album that I don't like the new version. Disappointingly, this was also one of my favorite tracks on the pirated album. Now I find that I'm disinterested in the new version. Largely it has to do with the production work behind the last verse. There's this wash of George Martin-esque instrument fragments that just seem to overpower everything. The vocal seems to drown behind synths, reversed audio files, and some annoying little piano snippet that nags for attention like a gnat.

After that's O Sailor, and I must say, I didn't like the new version the first time I heard it, but I really do now. I don't know what it is I objected to at first; but the new one gets a big stamp of approval from me. I like the upped tempo and I love the sing-songy backing vocals at the end of the track. Initially, they were one of the biggest things I didn't like about the track (that and I missed the string arrangement of the original). It was the first track that I've ever heard her overdubbing vocals on and it bugged me. Now, however, I like it and think it's a great end cap for the tune. So, go figure.

I just deleted everything I was saying about Better Version of Me, track 4. I was saying "I really like it. It's so different." But, you know what? 1.) It's not all that different, 2.) I like the original better. : / I didn't think that was the case until I A/Bed them side by side. I'm not as much of a fan of the sax ensemble in the new one at the expense of the cool Mellotron flutes in the original. Oh well.

Tymps is the track that the pirated versions seemed to name Used To Love Him. It's pretty different. Less swanky, a little more hip-hop. Interestingly, I never really noticed the lyrics on the original version but was instantly aware of them on the remake. I like the new one. In almost all respects I think it's a great reinvention of the track. There's some very cool mandolin work that comes in briefly after the first chorus. The vocal works extraordinarily well with the new percussive nature of the backing tracks. Cool stuff.

Parting Gift is the only all new track and it's beautiful. Piana, vox, beautiful melody and lyrics - can't go wrong. It's the kind of track that makes me feel like it was written to go on vinyl. This is the perfect track to end side one.

And with that, I'll wrap up Side One of my thoughts on this stuff and leave the rest for later. Otherwise, this'll be way too long.


AlienFlower said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AlienFlower said...

Jesse, I'm enjoying your blog and the Fiona thread. Speaking of Apples and Oranges: Also want to mention that is accepting submissions and you might want to consider - it's a cool cause. What do you think?

~ Janan

Pirate friend and All Fired Up Birthday Party mom (Devin had many a birthday party there some years ago and I still use a vase Dan created there too).

EmoRiot said...

I just went to Tower Records to stand in line for a couple hours to get a copy of her new album when the store opened... and to get a ticket to the in-store signing later this week. While there I couldn't think of any other artist who I would 1.) Stand in line any length of time to purchase their CD 2.) Purchase a CD, period. I'm way too iPod-converted now. But this album still represents enough artistry that I want to honor the whole package and medium of the music... not just the music.

Bug said...

I couldn't agree more. I'm headed to Tower later today to pick it up as well.

EmoRiot said...

I know that most people won't continue to follow this post's thread but I just had to come back to report that I saw Fiona Apple last night at her in-store appearance at Tower Records on Sunset Blvd. She was really very very good. I mean very good.

She played about half of her new album (opening with the first track on the album) and also through in a couple of tracks from When the Pawn. The cool part was that her band with her was a nylon string acoustic, an upright bass, and her. And the sound was massive. On "Fast As You Can" the guitarist began by tapping out the bongo parts on his acoustic's body... he also was able to play what I thought was a pizzicato string quartet on Extraordinary Machine but now don't know because it sounded so similar last night.

Fiona didn't even play piano, except for 2 songs. It was cool to see the songs that sound so big and strong on record aren't just an illusion of producers and session guys. Take away the piano on most tracks, the drums, the percussionists, the loops and samples, the mellotrons, the orchestra, and the electric guitars... and the songs are still these big and strong sounding units.

Bug said...

You're a unit.

Childishness aside, that's awesome. That must have been great to see. Maybe that makes up for your concert karma of not having seen Alanis Morrisette at a small venue in Virginia.

EmoRiot said...

No. Seeing Alanis Morrisette when 1.) She didn't suck the way she does now. 2.) She had booked her small "I'm not famous yet tour" but blew up huge before she finished it and 3.) She has since released a concert DVD all about how amazing that time was going on a tour that transitioned from small venues to 20,000 seat stadiums...

all that is still cosmic indian burn.