Tuesday, November 2, 2010
[pitchfork.com] A number of seminal musicians emerged in the 1990s and died prematurely, and sadly most of their fates were heavily foreshadowed. Both Kurt Cobain and Tupac Shakur spent much of their waking lives being their own best eulogizers; the Notorious B.I.G. named his debut album Ready to Die; and Jeff Buckley, to many, seemed fragile and vulnerable throughout his life. For those who spent years following his considerably quieter trajectory, so did Elliott Smith.
Where those other musicians pushed the dynamics of their chosen genres, Smith achieved his by inverse means. His real-life meekness, softness, and raw emotion never demanded or required anything as tragically operatic as cavernous reverb, barbed wire guitars, or ominous meditations on his own legacy as a musician. With the studio-produced exceptions of 1998's sublime XO and 2000's Figure 8, both funded on Dreamworks' dime, Smith's legacy was largely achieved via a house style that's about as common and as ordinary as it gets: a guy and an acoustic guitar.
Smith's hallmark, then, was his virtuosity: not just as a guitarist, though he frequently made one sound like two and two sound like four, or as a songwriter, though he rigorously engineered dazzlingly complicated chord sequences and melodies, but also in his singing, which had the singular quality of sounding hushed, hangdog, affable, and sweetly melodic all at once. His lyrics, meanwhile, alternated with conflicted ripples of wisdom, longing, and adolescent angst, the sweetness of the music often belying the sentiment underneath.
An Introduction To... is Kill Rock Stars' pitch at a Smith career primer, and although one could get caught up in questioning the need for any such anthology in the download era, it is pretty fantastically difficult to fault as a collection of songs, and KRS' intentions and target audience are clear. Ranging from Smith's relatively spotty 1994 solo debut Roman Candle (from which only one selection appears) through to "Miss Misery", the pivot point of his career, knowingly offered here in an early, pre-Oscar nominated incarnation, through to a few selections from New Moon, 2007's posthumous collection of vaulted odds and ends, it's more a testimony to the ferociously high quality of work that comprised Smith's catalogue than any triumph of curation.
READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW HERE!!
Posted by Dan Goldin at 6:15 PM