Elliott Smith remains unquestionably one of my favorite songwriters of all time, though I don't listen to him much these days.
Way back in 1998, when I did not live in a major city and was just barely in college, I somehow felt like I was the only person in the world listening to Elliott Smith. This was before Hot Topic, just before emo went mainstream, and before irony had so massively crushed sincerity in an epic battle of wits. In these early-ish days of the internet, I managed to contact someone through a fansite and get my hands on a tape of a film about Elliott, Strange Parallel, made by the idiosyncratic Steve Hanft. I don't think I had ever seen footage of Elliott at the time.
When I put the tape in my VCR and the film unfolded before me, I remember laughing aloud all by myself at the sight of it: I was completely overwhelmed by the fact that there was Elliott, live and onscreen, wearing his Bocephus shirt and digging a hole in the woods, out of which came a guitar. In my isolation, I somehow felt like he and Steve had made this film just for me. It was stunning. At the same time, I also was tickled by the greater idea that someone had made this film, thinking that many other people would watch and enjoy it -- who were these people?! This film pointed the way toward the world beyond just myself, a world of people who maybe thought a least a little like me, especially when it came to music. I would eventually have to move to San Francisco to find them en masse.
Strange Parallel clearly shows Elliott's genius and highlights his sense of humor as well. I think it is one of my favorite things ever. In the 10 years since this film was made, information and odd, detached connections are so much more quickly at our fingertips, and Smith has gained noteriety for so many things, mostly and unfotunately outside his music, but perhaps this footage and the songs within it will be a revelation for you as well.
For one week only, you can watch the film on Pitchfork, right here. I bet it is on Youtube somewhere too.
And if for some reason you still have not checked out Elliott Smith, please come to Amoeba and at least get XO and Either/Or, pronto.