Saturday, May 15, 2010

Elliott Smith - Figure 8


Listening to Elliott Smith is painful - not because he writes beautiful music, rich with melody and harmony, but because he's no longer around to write and record more.  His death, reported to be a suicide, is still surrounded in mystery, so much so, that I'm sure the truth will never fully be known.  Regardless, it's a tragic waste of a great talent.

As Mine acknowledges below, Elliott was introduced to us by a friend and has become a firm favourite in our house.  From A Basement On A Hill, his posthumous release, is probably my favourite but by a very small margin.  As with this, both Figure 8 and XO are absolute treasures, full of gorgeous, often sad songs and layered with Smith's resonant harmonies.  They truly are a listening pleasure.

On Figure 8, Elliott moves from piano-driven songs to quiet, solo numbers to full band tracks.  The continuity is his voice and arrangements, which I'm sure every sad-eyed boy with a guitar would love to emulate but very, very few have succeeded.  But he does this so effortlessly, I can't help but be somewhat envious of the depth of his talent. 

We've spent many early mornings, after rowdier nights, being drawn up and away to Elliott's tunes.  In fact, I can't imagine better music to accompany the sun coming up after a long night than his. 



Just how many sad, dead, gorgeous guitarists do we have in our collection, anyway?  Along with Mr Smith I can count Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake...  and all of them have their moments.  (YourZ sez: well, there's also Marc Bolan, David McComb, Kurt Cobain and Brad Nowell - these are all I can think of but I'm sure there are more...)

YourZ and Mine(self) were introduced to Elliott by a friend (hi, Dave!) who left us with a bootleg copy of XO.  Much playing later we swapped that for a real version and have been buying up his back catalogue ever since.  Or at least YourZ has because frankly, he's the one who brings the most music into the house, and I'm the one who (mostly) enjoys the consequences.  That's just the way it is.  It's kind of like, I'm the one who brings the most cookbooks into the house, and he's the one who (mostly) enjoys the consequences.

Where was I?  Ah yes, Mr Smith.  I'm really sorry he's dead.  It was like reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and then learning the author was dead (damn!) and then learning he wrote two more books (hooray!) and then learning he planned to write TEN in the series (double damn!)  Loving XO led us on to loving Figure 8 and From a Basement on a Hill and do we have Roman Candle?  But however many albums of his we discover, nothing makes up for the fact that this amazing talent left this earth way, way too soon.

Side note:  this and the other CDs are probably NOT albums to play in the car, as the music is often so beautiful you just want to close your eyes.

VERDICT: TURN IT UP get comfy and dream a little

For more information:

In our collection, we also have:  XO and From a Basement on a Hill


  1. I need to check this guy out. I don't think I've ever read an "official" review of his albums but people with similar musical tastes have recommended his music

  2. Chris, I can't recommend him highly enough. Of all his albums, XO is probably the most 'popular' album and is a very good place to start.