Elliott Smith – Either/Or
Kill Rock Stars, 1997
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006
Not only is this the perfect balance of the lo-fi of Smith's earlier albums and the hi-fi of his later ones, it's also a perfect mix of the depressing and sad of Elliott Smith and his attempt to prove to everyone that he wasn't a total sadsack on XO and Figure 8. Although mostly, this record still has his trademark depression. And I would say that this is his strongest batch of songs. There's a more full-band vibe to it and it works for him. It's a departure from the self-titled record while still retaining everything that made that record great. “Angeles” was my absolute go-to song for the Angela debacle in high school. I actually recorded a version of it on my four track (strummed, natch), and it's somewhere on some cassette tape at my parents house. Man, those were bad times. Sad that Elliott Smith records are always associated with bad times. Even when I was listening to Elliott Smith during good times (like when Angela and I made out for the first time, which was soundtracked by XO's “Happiness,” ironically) they're retroactively bad. Later in the game I noticed that Gus Van Sant had used a few songs from this for key scenes in Good Will Hunting. That scene where Minnie Driver and Matt Damon kiss for the first time to “Say Yes,” at the only point in the song where two characters would kiss and it would feel sweeping and epic. Really love that. It's kind of like a coda, like “Unlisted Track” on Dear You. A bittersweet little send-off. It's still my favorite Elliott Smith record, and one I revisit quite frequently on vinyl. I was wondering why I had the CD booklet inside the sleeve, and remember that my penpal Rosalie mailed it to me for some reason years ago. I will always be biased to this album in that it soundtracked an important part of my life (2003-2004) in a big transitionary period and it felt so right then, and it still feels right today.
I will avoid the usual children's treasury of awful youtube covers, because there are tons of them for "Say Yes." Instead, here's his performance of it from his last show.