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New Moon: Elliott Smith Rises Again

Posted by Miss Ess, May 19, 2007 12:24pm | Post a Comment
I listened to Elliott Smith almost constantly for a number of years, in particular during myelliott smith lucky three jem cohen collegiate hermit era.  His music has meant a lot to me, so this week's release of New Moon was sad and happy at the same time for me.  I think that's how his music always is too, rolling opposites into one, simultaneously delicate and strong.  It's one of the best things about his songs and no small part of what makes them classics.

New Moon is a double cd length collection of songs that for various reasons never made it to full length albums. Elliott always wanted to put out a double album a la The White Album, and it's hard that this posthumous collection is as close as he got. The tracks are all from the years 1994-1997, arguably his best period.  Some of them are from singles and some are never before released.  Being a big ol' fan, I had heard pretty much all of  them before (Thanks Charlie!), but that doesn't lessen the impact of hearing them again for the first time in years and having them all together collected.  I have to say since Elliott's death in 2003 I had virtually stopped listening to his records.  I feel strange hearing his voice again on New Moon and I keep listening to it over and over and over.

The great thing about the release, aside from the amazing songs, is that it was put together by people who were really close to Elliott and who knew his aesthetic and how important it is to maintain his vision.  None of the tracks are overdubbed or messed with; they are presented in the form they were recorded, and they are as spare as any of his early releases. 
elliott smith
His songs are so unbelievably rich and evocative.  I think the detail in every aspect of every song is nearly unparalleled.  His songs are fantastic top to bottom, from the lyrics to the chords to the melody.  Even the covers he chose over the years are flawless.  One of my favorites, "Thirteen" by Alex Chilton, is included here at last.  I feel like my meager writing can't do the tracks any justice, so i don't have too much to say except that I am sad that he's not around any more and I am hopeful that more and more people will find his music.  And that you should listen to "Angel in the Snow" cause it's one of the best songs he ever wrote.  It is so funny and also telling that Elliott's throwaways are usually better than what 90% of people putting out music ever write.  He must have been very hard on himself.

One of my favorite things Elliott did is actually a film shot during the period when he was writing the songs that appear on New Moon.  Its called Lucky Three and it features Elliott wandering around Portland and playing a few songs (including "Thirteen").  It's kinda a peek into his life at that time, walking through the Rose Garden and to get coffee, playing songs in the bathroom and his tiny studio.  The images and sounds together create such a beautiful feeling.  It's one of my favorite things ever.  I used to watch it late at night to get my anxious self in the mood to fall asleep.   Jem Cohen, who shot the Fugazi documentary Instrument, made it.  Here it is if you wanna take a peek (it's only about 10 min long):



The part where he is playing "Angeles" and nails it without even looking at the guitar at all honestly crippled me from playing my guitar for years.  It seemed pointless to try when someone could play like that. 

If you for some reason haven't heard any of his records before, you should get Either/Or and go from there.  He was one of the greats.




 

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New Moon (1), Elliott Smith (12), Lucky Three (1)