Safeway Goes Upscale
Failures of "Intelligence"

The Missing Apple

Atrios directs us to a review of a non-existent record album:

The New York Times > Arts > Music > Music | Bootleg Review: The Lost Apple: In 2002 and 2003, Fiona Apple recorded what would have been her third album, 'Extraordinary Machine.' Its producer, Jon Brion, has said that Ms. Apple's label, Sony Music's Epic Records, shelved the album because it didn't hear potential hit singles. An Epic spokeswoman said, 'Fiona has not yet delivered her next album.' Lately, what purports to be the full album, 11 songs, has been leaked onto the Internet, where - despite the efforts of Sony's legal department - a simple search will find multiple sources of downloads. The album is an oddball gem.

Its producer, Mr. Brion, is fond of instruments that huff and plink and wheeze, as he showed in his soundtrack for 'I {sheart} Huckabees.' Epic may have been discomfited that Ms. Apple's collaboration with him doesn't sound anything like what's on the radio now. As a songwriter, she's the same Fiona Apple who sold millions of copies of her first two albums; she's still sultry and sullen, obsessing in detail over why her romances went wrong and teetering between regret and revenge. Her vocals smolder like torch songs, then boil over with rage and accusations. But this time, the music doesn't always mope with her.

The album sets the 21st century aside. The beats are often waltzes and oom-pahs, not hip-hop or punk; the arrangements are full of cellos, horns, bells and vintage keyboards. Ms. Apple's piano and voice are still at the center of the music, but now orchestras and show bands sprout around her, adding layers of whimsy and artifice. Ms. Apple has always placed herself somewhere between confession and entertainment, but in songs like 'Window' or 'Better Version of Me,' the carnival bounces and mock-Hollywood glitz put a cartoonish frame around her traumas, giving them a brand-new perspective.

Had it been released, 'Extraordinary Machine' would have been a fine counterbalance to a pop moment full of monolithic, self-righteous sincerity. As it stands, mysteriously leaked and proliferating, the album is an object lesson in how an Internet that's not controlled by copyright holders can set artistic expression free.