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  • Fiona Apple, who makes public appearances like a lunar eclipse, was back in full force at the South By Southwest Music Conference and Festival in Austin, TX. She put on a showcase of old songs and new tracks slated to be released on her new album.

    Apple, 34, set the music world on its ear when he debut album Tidal was released in 1996. She was just 19. Her distinctive contralto voice, piano skills and biting, angst-filled lyrics set her apart.

    She followed that up with When the Pawn in 1999 and then kind of dropped out. The New York City denizen produced her third album, Extraordinary Machine in 2003. She supported the album with a tour and then dropped out of sight, again.

    Her new album was supposed to be out in 2011, but for some reason it got back-burnered at Epic Records, leading to her infamous comment: “I can’t remember any of my new songs because they’ve been done for a fucking year.”

    Epic finally announced that the set would be released on June 1. Apple followed up with her own announcement that she would play South by Southwest and follow up with a spring tour.

    That made her appearance at Stubbs BBQ one of the festival’s most anticipated. She has a second show slated as well, before taking off on an eight-city tour, starting Sunday (Mar. 18) in Chicago.

    She belted out “Criminal,” “Fast As You Can” and “Sleep to Dream” along with songs titled “Paper Bag” and “Anything We Want.”

    Apple was as inscrutable as ever, but seemed to be enjoying performing live in front of an audience. It’s been awhile and she seemed to realize that. “You’re imaginary, right?” she said.

    For the record the title of her new album is: The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do.

    Check out two of her performances below.