Tag Archives: Elliott Smith

Remastered, expanded edition of Elliott Smith’s Either/Or coming in March

Either/Or was the first Elliott Smith album I bought. Like a lot of people outside the Pacific Northwest my first exposure to Elliott Smith was the movie Good Will Hunting. Or maybe a pal put something on a mixtape. I can’t remember why but at the time I was opposed to buying soundtracks, so I picked up Either/Or essentially as a way to get my favorite song from the film: “Say Yes.”

I immediately became obsessed. Songs like “Ballad of Big Nothing” and “Rose Parade” had a melodic sensibility that appealed to the Beatles fanatic in me and the dark, clever lyrics were right up my Tom Waits-loving, low-life alley. The recording sounded like it was made by people who reeked of stale cigarette smoke and beer sweat. This was the 90s and bars couldn’t be divey enough for people like us. The dirtier and cheaper, the better. Elliott Smith sounded like a guy we might see in the corner booth at Teazer’s, sipping something in a rocks glass and nodding along and smirking when a not-too-terrible song got played on the jukebox. This is what I projected onto him anyway from listening to the album and looking at the cover photo.

We didn’t have wikipedia in those days so I had to gather clues by scouring the liner notes: “recorded at joanna’s house, my house, the shop, undercover inc., heatmiser house, and laundry rules.” The label was Kill Rock Stars, the home of Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney. This was all we had to go on, to make up narratives of our own.

Years later, I’d finally get a chance to see him in concert, but the show was a disaster and he was a mess. A year and a half later, he was dead.

Since then, there have been a number of posthumous releases. First there was From a Basement on the Hill, a collection of the stuff he was working on before he died. In 2007 there was New Moon, a compilation of 24 outtakes mostly recorded between 1994 and 1997. I interviewed archivist Larry Crane back then about putting together that release. A couple years later I interviewed Crane again about what he found in the archives since New Moon. He said there probably wasn’t enough unreleased stuff to release another album, but “There are a lot of interesting alternate and live versions of songs though. I could see doing ‘bonus disc’ versions of the proper albums as a possibility.”

Continue reading Remastered, expanded edition of Elliott Smith’s Either/Or coming in March

Chris Staples – Golden Age

Chris Staples_HeadshotI maintain a playlist called Golden that pulls together a bunch of songs that give me fall shivers and nostalgic heartstring tugs. There’s loads of Beck’s Sea Change, Kurt Vile’s Walking on a Pretty Day, Steve Gunn’s Sundowner, Elliott Smith, Damien Jurado, Lord Huron, and now…Chris Staples.

Staples’ new album, Golden Age, shares more in common with those songs and that feeling than its title. There’s a type of sadness, without being maudlin. And maybe that’s to be expected. After a rough patch where Staples was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes that resulted in pancreas failure, a bike accident that required surgery, and the dissolution of a long-term relationship, Chris Staples is afforded some sad bastard time.

But that’s what’s great about this record: it’s not sad bastard music. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE me some of that. But Staples’ album maintains a bit of pop bounce with lovely melodies and simple production. It’s been described as a “subtle” record, which I guess is as good anything I would come up to describe the production. Because subtlety implies hidden complexity, and this record has that in spades.

Give a listen to lead off track “Relatively Permanent” and tell me you aren’t ready to sit down with Chris, have a beer, and talk about where you grew up.

Continue reading Chris Staples – Golden Age

Watch a newly digitized Elliott Smith video: Coming Up Roses

Vimeo: Elliott Smith – “Coming Up Roses” (raw play back take)

This is wonderful. Ross Harris recently transferred the original 16mm negative from his 1995 video for Elliott Smith’s “Coming Up Roses” and this is the entire play back take. Harris says, “I was overcome with emotion watching the tenderness in which Elliott gently prompts Raul the back up singer when he is supposed to chime in with the harmony. The few moments that Elliott drops the music video facade and lets that shy smile his friends knew so well are precious to me.”

Look for a profile on Ross Harris and his work with Elliott Smith in an upcoming issue of Monster Children.

Via Sweet Adeline.

Continue reading Watch a newly digitized Elliott Smith video: Coming Up Roses

Five From the Archive: Elliott Smith in 2003

Elliott Smith is giving Warren Zevon a run for his money. Or is this just the second time I’m highlighting work by Elliott Smith? Either way, you can expect more. This one will be the most painful. The year was 2003. I had just arrived at my hotel in York, England (business trip). I called my then wife to check in now that I was at my destination. She told me Elliott Smith had killed himself. Stabbed himself – twice – in the chest. I distinctly remember having a physical reaction to this. I was lying on the hotel bed, with my legs hanging over the edge, my feet on the ground (bed was low, I know). I felt like my heart skipped a beat, and had a sudden rush of… adrenaline or something.

Elliott Smith!? Dead!? He’d barely just begun. One of the greatest songwriting voices around at that time. At least I’d gotten to see him a handful of times in New York, and was able to appreciate his talent before he died. Thankfully for all of us, there are about 95 Elliott Smith shows currently available on the Live Music Archive. What follows is a selection of tracks from his final year, 2003. What a loss.

1. Elliott Smith – “Rose Parade”. Just Smith on the acoustic guitar as accompaniment. Lo-fi audience recording, but it captures the song pretty well. Just don’t play it loud at a party. Full show: September 19, 2003 – Redfest, Salt Lake City, UT

2. Elliott Smith – “Coast to Coast”. This is one of my favorite songs from Basement on the Hill. Fucking awesome. It’s a lo-fi audience recording, too, but it’s a full band this time. This particular show has been downloaded over 19,000 times. Full show: May 28, 2003 – The Derby, Los Angeles, CA

3. Elliott Smith – “A Distorted Reality Is Know A Necessity To Be Free”. Demonstrates how vulnerable he was at this time. The audience is deadly quiet (after the banter and a few false starts at the beginning, anyway). Full show: May 22, 2003 – Belly Up Tavern, Solana Beach, CA

4. Elliott Smith – “King’s Crossing”. Favorite track from Basement. Acoustic version. Full show: January 31, 2003 – Henry Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

5. Elliott Smith – “Pretty (Ugly Before)”. Full show: May 3, 2003 – The Steamboat, Austin, TX

You can find earlier coverage of Elliott Smith’s work on Five For the Archive here.

Image of Elliott Smith courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

 

Five From the Archive: Elliott Smith’s Best Covers

Elliott Smith always picked interesting songs to cover. Some that were well known, some that were more obscure. But they were all good. They certainly hit my musical sweet spot. These five selections are just a sampling — he was a serial covererist — and you can find more just browsing through the shows available on the Internet Music Archive.

1. Elliott Smith – “Harvest Moon”. I’ll be honest. I’m a huge Neil fan, but not that big a fan of this song. Or the album it comes from. But this is a really tender cover of the song, and I think Elliott brings out the best in the song. I think I prefer this version over Neil’s. Full show:  April 5, 1999 – Ludlow’s, Columbus, OH

2. Elliott Smith – “Jealous Guy”. He played this a lot in 1998. His whistling is a little weak in this version — which is why he usually asked the audience to whistle with him — but the sound quality is outstanding. Soundboard recording. Full show: April 17, 1998 – Black Cat, Washington, DC

3. Elliott Smith – “Ballad of a Thin Man”. “Something is happening, but you don’t know what it is… do you, Mr. Jones?” When it starts, just Elliott playing his guitar, you can hear the telltale rustle of the snare as he strums. It’s about to get loud in there. Full show: October 11, 1998 – 400 Club, Minneapolis, MN

4. Elliott Smith – “Isn’t It a Pity”. “Isn’t it a pity? Isn’t it a shame? How we break each other’s hearts, and cause each other pain?” Lyrically, it’s a perfect cover choice for Elliott. Heartbreaking vocals accompanied only by his acoustic guitar. A soundboard recording. Full show: August 12, 1998 – Maxwell’s, Hoboken, NJ

5. Elliott Smith – “Out on the Weekend”. This is the poorest quality recording of the bunch. It’s still going to blow your mind. It wraps up with about two minutes of mumbling into the microphone, but I can’t understand what he’s saying… From: December 21, 2001 – Showbox, Seattle, WA

Elliott Smith – Thirteen

An Introduction to Elliott SmithMP3: Elliott Smith – “Thirteen” (Big Star cover) offered by Kill Rock Stars in honor of the release of An Introduction to Elliott Smith, out now.

That song is not on the compilation, but these ones are:

Elliott Smith – “Between the Bars”

Elliott Smith – “Twilight”

Elliott Smith – “Last Call”

Elliott Smith: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, eMusic, wiki

Elliott Smith – Between the Bars

MP3: Elliott Smith – “Between the Bars” from An Introduction to… Elliott Smith, out November 2 on KRS. Originally on Either/Or.

A new “best of” compilation is sure to disappoint longtime fans, excluding favorite songs, but this Elliott Smith collection looks like a pretty nice starting point for newbies, despite its obvious lightness on the Dreamworks era (XO, Figure 8).

I’m happy KRS was able to license “Waltz #2 (XO)” since it’s arguably his best song. But to use the early version of “Miss Misery” instead of the finished version from the Good Will Hunting soundtrack feels a little disrespectful. It was cool to include it on the collection of outtakes, New Moon, but Smith was such a perfectionist when it came to his songwriting that I can’t imagine he’d be pleased to see this clumsy, unfinished version canonized on a compilation like this.

Elliott Smith: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Continue reading Elliott Smith – Between the Bars

Album Streams: MGMT, Elliott Smith, more

Tune in!NPR is streaming MGMT’s ‘Congratulations’ through April 13.

MySpace is streaming—with annoying ads—She & Him’s ‘Vol. 2’ this week.

And AOL/Spinner is streaming the following new releases through Sunday, March 28:

Elliott Smith, 'From a Basement on the Hill' (Kill Rock Stars; MP3)

Elliott Smith, 'Roman Candle' (Kill Rock Stars; MP3)

Bettie Serveert, "Pharmacy of Love" (Second Motion; MP3, MP3)

Mose Allison, "The Way of the World" (Epitaph; MP3)

More streams below. Let us know if you hear anything good.

Continue reading Album Streams: MGMT, Elliott Smith, more

Elliott Smith Remastered

Roman CandleMP3: Elliott Smith – “Last Call” from the remastered reissue of Roman Candle, due April 6 on Kill Rock Stars.

I was a little leery of the idea of anybody “cleaning up” Elliott Smith‘s debut album, but listening to this song has quashed my fears. It sounds fucking awesome. I just did an A-B test with the MP3 on my iPhone, and the new one sounds much better. We shouldn’t be surprised. The album remastering was overseen by Larry Crane (with Roger Seibel at SAE), who worked with Smith from 1996 to 1999, co-produced “Miss Misery,” and researched, assembled and mixed New Moon in 2007.

When KRS first announced that Roman Candle would be receiving the remastering treatment, I shot Crane a quick email with my concerns.

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Today’s Playlist: Peter Ham’s Dream

Peter Ham Totale’s Lost Classic review of Badfinger’s Straight Up has had me on an early 70s power pop rave up. In order to fulfill my need for lush melodies, sly guitar solos, and backbeat drums, I’ve compiled a playlist of the bands surrounding Badfinger’s legacy: Peter Ham’s Dream (re-read the heartbreaking story of the Badfinger front man on Wikipedia).

There’s naturally a gang of Badfinger on this mix. If you’re going to wear your influences on your sleeves then do it with vigor! Be proud and be true to their vision…and yours. While too many will dismiss Badfinger as a poor man’s Fab Four, I revel in their absolute and unflinching embrace of the Beatles‘ later-day sound. They were, after all, disciples of the Fabs so why not be true to that musical message? It’s that musical legacy, as translated by followers for decades to come, that this mix is celebrating.

In mixes like this I prefer to use a band as a point of reference; the point from which the musical personality is derived. Instead of the Beatles as the point in this case, I like the focus being once removed from the source. Bands like Sloan and Spoon are as much influenced by Badfinger (the second layer in the scheme) as they are the Beatles (the primary source). That’s the point. To me it’s just as valid to create new music that shares more of a sonic palette with your influences than not. How that influence is translated and communicated down through the various layers is what allows for the continuity of sound as well as originality in execution. Can you dig it?

The recently departed Jay Reatard summed it up so perfectly in this New York Times article from August, 2009 interview:

The whole concept for me behind pop music is to take your influences and filter them through yourself, and then they become something new. I’m not trying to move forward and create territory that hasn’t been mined before, I’m just trying to do my version of something that I like.

Amen, brother.

Continue reading Today’s Playlist: Peter Ham’s Dream