#6- Elliott Smith- Figure 8


I have one framed photo on my living room wall. Though small and colorless against the wall, the black and white matted portrait of Elliott Smith fills the space adequately.

Figure 8 was the last album that was released during his lifetime. It opens with a powerful punch, "Son of Sam" is a rock and roll tune with some great olde bar piany pounding the keys. By the end of the song, a listener has to wonder if he can follow up that song with the rest of the album. He does. Every song on this album is perfect. Smith made a perfect cocktail out of folky acoustic guitars, blues-grunge hybrid electric guitars, ragtime piano, and classical string arrangements. Figure 8 sounds like a divine blend made of every American rock and roll influence in the past century, country to grunge. The blues guitar on "Can't Make a Sound" just rips my heart out every time I hear it (which is often). Though his voice is soft and often nothing more than a melodic whimper, the vocal layers and harmonies create a distinct Smith sound that will sing to the back of the room and into the deepest well of your gut and heart.

His music was somberly perfect.

It's truly tragic that Smith has passed away. Having battled with years of depression, alcoholism, and a severe addiction to heroin, Smith embodied everything any solid person would never hope to be. While touring around 2000, Smith's performances were tragic at best. Audiences would often have to help him remember words, as the ungroomed and sickly Smith would space out on stage. While working on the next album, co-producer Jon Brion, confronted Smith about his addiction which resulted in an end to their brilliant friendship (seriously, two of my musical heroes here. Sad I missed this one).

2002 was a better year for smith. He began to get clean and started making music again. This light after a storm was short lived.

"Elliott Smith died on October 21, 2003, at age 34 from two stab wounds to the chest. According to girlfriend Jennifer Chiba—with whom he was living at the time—the two were arguing, and she locked herself in the bathroom to take a shower. Chiba heard him scream, and upon opening the door, saw Smith standing with a knife in his chest. She pulled the knife out, after which he collapsed and she called 9-1-1. Smith died in the hospital with the time of death listed as 1:36 p.m. While Smith's death was originally reported as a suicide, the official autopsy report released in December 2003 left open the question of possible homicide. A possible suicide note, written on a Post-it read, 'I'm so sorry—love, Elliott. God forgive me.'" (Taken from the wiki)

Smith was a hero for the angst-ridden and stifled spirits many have faced in youth. His music was brilliant and potent. Elliott Smith made the saddest music I've ever heard... and I love him for it.

Rest in Peace.

(If it means anything to you, share something you cherish/remember/etc about Elliott Smith and his music on comments. Thanks!)


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Ben said...

I keep hearing good things about this... reading your description sells me.

Julia said...

This is a beautiful piece of work! If only I had discovered the man before he passed. He left us such a beautiful gift, and I hope that he rests in peace.

Favorite song by him? Waltz 2 (XO) because of the line, "I'm never gonna know you now, but I'm gonna love you anyhow."