Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Elliott Smith - Elliott Smith

Elliott Smith – Elliott Smith
Kill Rock Stars, 1995
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2006
Price: $12

My Elliott Smith story is that I confused him with Nick Drake. I was watching the audio commentary on The Royal Tenenbaums in 2003 and when Wes Anderson mentioned that Nick Drake had killed himself, I mixed this up. That's because “Needle in the Hay” Plays over Richie Tenenbaum's hyper-dramatic attempted suicide scene. So I confused them, and got really into this record and Either/Or. This went on for about two weeks, the thinking Elliott Smith had killed himself and it made so much sense listening to this album (which as you probably know, is pretty fucking depressing). Then I found out that he HADN'T killed himself and I was kind of relieved. And then, I shit you not, two days later he killed himself. Go figure. That was a blow. I'd literally JUST found an artist I really loved when I was just discovering how to love music and then he dies. Smith was one of those rare artists who did not put out a bad record. In fact, every record he put out ranged from great to flawless, which again, is incredibly rare. I also really enjoy the trajectory of his career. From four-track on Roman Candle, to real production but still stripped down here, to a middle ground between lo-fi and hi-fi on Either/Or, to mid-fi on XO and to hi-fi on Figure 8. And all of these albums are at least great. Despite the record being pretty depressing, I can listen to it at any time and it's always perfect. He's also an artist who can constantly avoid any sort of backlash in the new world where “indie” bands are derided for becoming too popular with the mainstream. Unlike the legions of people who denounced the Shins after Garden State, everyone still loves Elliott Smith and if they say they don't, they are most likely lying to you. It's rare to find a total package sort of singer-songwriter, especially these days. Lately the only one I can think of that comes anywhere close to the kind of talent Smith had is Bon Iver. That is, the ability to not only write songs with words and tone that reach right down into the middle of you, but someone who is an amazing musician and always plays it down. And since 2003, this has been my first go-to record following any relationship drama/getting dumped. For days, the ritual would be to lie in my room with the black (like my soul) curtains drawn and groan with “Alphabet Town” or “The Biggest Lie” making me accompanying my feelings of death. The line “Now I'm a crushed credit card registered to Smith/ Not the name that you call me with” still kills me. This whole record still kills me, just as much as it did when I was seventeen.

Oh man! "The Biggest Lie" with Rose Melberg!

1 comment:

  1. I think part of the reason that people still love Elliott Smith but hate the Shins for their popularity is because Elliott Smith is dead. If the Shins mysteriously died in a plane crash, I'm sure people would love them. There's something about people dying that makes their music instantly better, like when Michael Jackson died Thriller was all of the sudden not just some kitschy relic from the 80's, it was totally awesome and everyone HAD to listen to it.