Photo by Onwardintoforever
Elliott Smith, the greatest songwriter and musician of his generation, passed away four years ago today. I discovered the man’s music in 10th grade and spent that summer listening obsessively to XO and Either/Or; I picked up the rest of his discography soon after and found it equally satisfying. It’s been seven years, and despite listening to hundreds – probably thousands – of albums since, I’ve yet to discover a band or artist who affects me half as much.
As something of a musician myself, I’ve always considered Smith the gold standard: His fingers-only acoustic guitar playing is a thing of wonder, his lyrics are colloquial but staggeringly moving, his recording techniques – doubled guitars and vocals – are practically a trademark, and that tormented, angelic voice? Too good to last. Even four years later, a collection of his outtakes for Elliott Smith and Either/Or (this year’s double-disc New Moon) still betters current material by any of his peers – Radiohead included.
As longtime readers know, I’ve written quite a bit on Smith over the years. Here are some posts (with MP3s, of course) that you shouldn’t miss if you’re a fan of the guy, and if you’re not, stop reading right now and pick up his first three albums. And his last three albums.
Elliott Smith Live: The Definitive Guide – Smith was a consummate live performer, despite a penchant for aborting songs halfway through (strangely, he could never remember the G chord in “Pitseleh”) and, especially toward the end of his life, drinking far too much. The June 1998 Stockholm performance is absolutely incredible, a ferocious display of voice and guitar.
Elliott Smith – Complete Live Covers: The Beatles, The Kinks, Dylan and Young, Big Star and Nico, Oasis, etc.: A five-part series collecting recordings of every single live cover Smith ever performed. If I’m missing any, send ’em my way. As you can see, the guy had tremendous influences – I wouldn’t be listening to Big Star or the Left Banke today if not for him.
And a few of my favorite unreleased tracks, which at some point I promise to compile properly:
Rest in peace, Elliott.