Extraordinary Machine

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Extraordinary Machine has to be Rory Gilmore’s internal sound track. The plucky young heroine of Gilmore Girls regularly engages in intellectual hopscotch, peppering her rapid-fire speech with references to everything from indie rock to Emily Brontë. But she’s also sweet, thoughtful, and available to everybody.

This is why Rory needs Extraordinary. Fiona Apple’s third album (her first in six years) revisits the indifferent slink and rumpled taffeta decadence of her hit debut Tidal. It’s smart, wordy and intriguingly baroque. But it’s also precise and accessible, rarely letting melodrama overtake melody. “Get Him Back” and “Better Version of Me” are pensive and poetic foot-tappers, and the ballad “Oh Well” manages balladry and the dismissive “whatever” tone of Gen-Y culture in the same breath. “What wasted unconditional love on somebody who doesn’t believe in the stuff,” Apple sings over luscious organs and brass. “Oh, well.” And while she still favors those big major chords on the piano, producer Mike Elizondo knows when to accentuate them and when to ease back. So, like Rory, Extraordinary Machine is everything to everyone. It’s filled with wonder, adventurism and drama, but accepts its commercial side too. Apple’s gotten with the program, but it’s on her terms.

Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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