It's the same old song
Not too surprisingly, Pitchfork's review of Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine compares the version produced by Mike Elizondo (whom hip hop heads might recognize from the bassline on The Firm's "Phone Tap") leaked yesterday to the Jon Brion-produced version released earlier this year.
I've been listening to the new version on Fiona's Myspace page and I have to say, I like the original version just fine and don't think the commercial release is an improvement over the unreleased album.
Of course, Fiona claims that quality was never the problem (listen to Fiona talk about it on NPR). Rather, she was worried that the original recordings sounded "more like a Jon Brion album than a Fiona Apple album". That's understandable and sure, we all want our singer-songwriters to keep their stamps on their music
Still, I don't think her voice and songwriting were lost in Jon Brion's production. Just as a Jon Brion score stands out but never upstages the film (say, I Heart Huckabees or Punch Drunk Love), the whimsical sound served to complement her playfulness on the original Extraordinary Machine. And as I mentioned in my take on Kanye's Late Registration, the Brion-trademarked bells and whistles added life to Kanye's loops and created a soundscape that pushed his rhymes out.
It's not a bad album ("Oh Sailor", the first single, stands out) but it's not going to make me erase the songs I downloaded back in March.
Update: Fluxblog disagrees, but what do they know about music?
Well, I do think that it's one of the year's better albums and what we have is a choice between two decent versions of the same album. That, I'm sure we can all agree, is a good thing.