Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sample Set #173

I've written in the past about my adoration for Fiona Apple's music. As I see it, there's a connection to be drawn between the debut and sophomore albums of Fiona Apple (Tidal and When the Pawn...) and Kanye West (College Dropout and Late Registration), namely in terms of production and experimentation. It's not uncommon for a musician to aspire to "grow" on their second album. More often than not - or so it seems - an artist will get criticized for this and thus be hit by the "sophomore slump" stamp of disapproval. Not the case for Fiona or Kanye, both of whom released albums which were arguably as good as their predecessor - if not better - despite shifting gears and trying new sounds. One key ingredient in both of these follow-up records was the production wizardry of Jon Brion, a talented multi-instrumentalist who is known to dazzle crowds at Los Angeles' Largo nightclub (highly recommended!). On Fiona Apple's debut, Jon Brion played various instruments including guitar, vibraphone, marimba and piano. For When the Pawn..., his role was upgraded to producer, experimenting with new sounds including the Chamberlin and intricate drum loops. When the Pawn... had a decisively more fluid, active sound and pace than Tidal.

Image via Passion of the Weiss

On Late Registration, Brion is credited as a co-producer alongside Kanye West. People often point to the "lush" sounds on the album - a change of scenery from the organic, dustier feel of College Dropout. Providing string and brass arrangements for the album, it's evident that credit for Late Registration's lavish soundbeds are owed to Jon Brion. Of course, props are due to Kanye West as well, who effectively showed on Late Registration that he was more than just a "beatmaker"; he was proclaiming himself a full-fledged producer. The album's liner notes provide a thorough justification for this claim, outlining the instrumentalists and vocalists enlisted for the project - not to mention the dug-up gems sampled on Late Registration! I had a blast compiling this set (which has admittedly been a long time coming). 'til the next one, enjoy... and turn it up!!