The Skinny: This is Smith’s fifth release and the last before his death in 2003. He wrote and performed most of the music. In retrospect it has a charmingly doomed vibe, with ethereal layered vocals and a narcotic, groovy feel.
Sounds like: Belle & Sebastian, Mary Lou Lord, Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, Sufjan Stevens, Travis, Matthew Sweet, Lennon/McCartney
Deeper Thoughts: I was saddened but not shocked in 2003 when I learned that Elliott Smith had passed. I had recently acquired a copy of Figure 8 and found it to have a plethora of veiled allusions to death (the last track is a brooding piano instrumental called “Bye”). Lots of strings and minor chords and Beatle-y changes. Largely because this is the work of an auteur, it’s not just a cohesive song cycle, but a kind of indie-pop symphony with multiple movements. If John & Paul had an ADHD son who suffered from bouts of depression and substance abuse, he might have sounded like this.
The Sonics: As with much of Smith’s work, these mixes are intimate, his signature breathy vocals close-miked and multi-tracked. There is a lot of detail in these songs that isn’t particularly well served by lossy streaming. As with the vinyl, this disc has an openness to it that is particularly effective through a good headphone rig. The low-end in some of the heavier sections gets a bit muddy, but the mids are pleasant, and the top-end sharp enough in places to cut you.
Elliot Smith: vocals, guitar, bass, piano, organs, loops, string arrangements
special guests including: Sam Coomes, bass; Pete Thomas, drums; Joey Waronker, drums; John Brion, backing vox
1.”Son of Sam”
2.”Somebody That I Used to Know”
3.”Junk Bond Trader”
4.”Everything Reminds Me of Her”
5.”Everything Means Nothing to Me”
7.”In the Lost and Found (Honky Bach)”/”The Roost”
9.”Easy Way Out”
10.”Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud?”
12.”Happiness”/”The Gondola Man”
13.”Pretty Mary K”
14.”I Better Be Quiet Now”
15.”Can’t Make a Sound”