Scott Hardie | September 11, 2005
It was over a year ago that I first griped about how long it was taking Sony to publish Fiona Apple's new album. (link) Jon Brion produced the album in his usual eclectic style, incorporating dozens of unusual instruments, and the work was far too dense to be promoted as today's typically vapid, ClearChannel-ready pop music. Thanks to another TC author, I've been enjoying the album in full as it was leaked to the Internet in its long-finished state. It's beautiful, genius work.

Well, the official, for-real-this-time-we-really-mean-it publication is now scheduled for October 4th, and I smell a rat. Apple has reportedly re-recorded the album with another producer because she was "dissatisfied" with Brion's version... but she and Brion have been close friends for years, part of the same clique with Paul Thomas Anderson and Aimee Mann, and she has widely praised his production of her last album; he's even performing live with her to promote this release. She has also recorded a brand new track, and (surprise!) it's the first single and music video from the album. All of this seems suspiciously to me like Sony finally caved in to all the free publicity they were getting from FreeFiona.com and other campaigns (I even read about the controversy in Newsweek) and decided to publish the damn thing at last, but contractually forced Apple to record a more marketable version at the cost of her integrity. Now that I've seen the godawful cover art (link) I'm even more convinced they're tossing this thing out the door just to be rid of it.

I won't judge the new recording for sure until October 4th; it might turn out better after all. To be fair, Brion's version sounded like the first half was finished and the second half was still approaching completion. And the brand-new single is no more radio-friendly than the rest; its video, shot by her brother Spencer, is as ugly and lazy as the album cover. There's a chance my suspicions are wrong and I hope that's the case. But believe me when I say I'm hanging on to my copy of Brion's version just in case this album turns out to be the mess it's shaping up to be.


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