Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Music
cover art

Elliott Smith

Figure 8

(Dreamworks)

Mr. Smith was going to have a very tough time even matching the overall quality of his last release, XO, so I approached the listening of this release with cautious optimism, trying not to place the bar too high to meet expectations. I can report that not only were these expectations met, but they were exceeded to the extent that this release is one of the finest this year in any genre. This is possibly Elliott’s best work yet.


I first became acquainted with ES’s work through an astute friend of mine with impeccable taste in music. I then read an interview with the great pop songwriter Aimee Mann who touted his work. That was enough for me.


Figure 8 is a collection of excellent songs and great performances. Without diminishing Mr. Smith or either of these artists, a comparison might be to Matthew Sweet or Paul McCartney. It is the rare artist who can pen and perform songs with sparse instrumentation and pull it off. Either the song and voice shines or it falls flat. Sweet, McCartney and Smith all can pull off such sparse arrangements. On Figure 8, I invite you to experience the phosphorescent brilliance of the bare songs “Somebody that I Used to Know”, “I Better be Quiet Now,” and “Easy Way Out.” But these tracks are not even the highlights.


“Everything Reminds Me of Her” is a beautiful track that brings me into Smith’s world. Simple heartfelt lyrics like: “...so if I seem a little out of it, sorry…but why should I lie…everything reminds me of her.” It doesn’t rhyme. It’s not classically clever. Just real, like all of Smith’s best stuff. The next track, “Everything Means Nothing to Me” is another heartfelt theme with an astonishing climb of a chorus. The strings at the end are breathtaking. Other highlight tracks are “LA” which has a great rock bite.


I would love to see Smith break through with this recording. He is one of the last real artists left on a major label with songwriting mastery, a keen knowledge of rock history and an honest respect for the really great artists such as The Beatles, and lesser known bands such as Big Star.


Let’s make this a Top Ten record.

Tagged as: elliott smith
Related Articles
By PopMatters Staff
6 Oct 2014
In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.
By PopMatters Staff
5 Oct 2014
PopMatters' picks for the best albums of the 2000s begins with a series of albums that spans epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.
5 Oct 2014
Leaving behind spectacle and sensation, Torment Saint offers a compassionate and measured portrayal of late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith.
3 Nov 2010
An Introduction to... may well lead new listeners to Smith's back catalogue, but hopefully they won't stop where the compilation does.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.