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Elliott Smith – Either/Or (1997)

April 5, 2009

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I was pretty inspired after reading Alexandra’s post of Amazon.com’s favourite 100 independent albums of all time. It collates an impressive amount of artists. Admittedly though, I didn’t own many of the albums featured. One of the few albums which I did have on the list was Elliott Smith’s Either/Or and thought I’d give it a listen a few times this week.

Musicians who die in dramatic circumstances surely have a more eerie sense of them when listening to their albums. Elliot Smith and the surroundings of his death plays that part. Such eerie senses were abounds when listening to this for sure – however, Either/Or I believe is can’t really be dubbed as a masterpiece of Smith’s, but can’t be described as totally average either. To say I’m confused about the album would be pretty much on the money.

Smith was certainly an underrated musician who didn’t reach his potential. Figure 8 was a more complete piece of work, but it is Either/Or which really exposes us to who this man was. His whispy voice on this album makes me think he is revealing all his secrets. The semi dark nature to the album purveyed throughout open up his feelings to the listener and just provides shivers down the spine, considering when you read up on the troubled times he went through making this album. I suppose that’s what makes a true masterpiece of work – depression and addiction. It’s been an argument for many musician’s best albums. It’s a bit of a shame to say that to be honest. It’s to discuss on another blog post for another time.

If you think about it, much of the songwriting on Either/Or is actually fairly simple. A lot of strumming, making for straight up cruisey acoustic sounds. “Rose Parades” I feel is a good example of this. Vocal lines are mainly kept fairly simple, usually repeated two-bar phrases before the chorus, and mainly could be forgotton in an instant in some cases.

What really draws me in is “Between The Bars” – a quiet simple song which celebrates partying, drinking and “staying up all night” in the most serene way that you can imagine. While not the most stellar album in his catalogue, this release surely can hold it’s own on a rainy afternoon.

Elliott Smith website
Elliott Smith myspace

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Miles permalink
    April 7, 2009 12:26 am

    I can’t say i’ve performed a deep lyrical analysis of all his work but i don’t really think either/or gives us a ‘truer’ sense of who Elliott was the Figure 8. Much of his work seems to explore some fairly dark material, perhaps he just dressed things up better later on.

  2. April 7, 2009 10:59 am

    I’m a big fan of XO to be honest, although I do like Figure 8. Never listened to either/or, I think.

    Also my favourite ever album made it in the top 10 (maybe even top 5?) of that Amazon list! Woo!

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