The lyrical sob story many lovesick music lovers, ranging from indie-hipsters to pop-rock devotees, heard has become a distant, yet fond memory. Of course, I’m referring to Elliott Smith, who after six incredible albums, each better than the last, and a career based off pain and depression, took two stabs to the chest on Oct. 21, 2003. Today, I remember his many accomplishments. Elliott Smith was a songwriter out of his basement in Portland, Oregon since he was 14. He dabbled in different styles of music, partaking in different rock bands here and there, but ultimately decided he was a solo artist.His first solo record, Roman Candle, debuted in 1994. The success from Roman Candle was minimal, but young Elliott was on the rise and the buzz was out.
His second album, which was self-titled and released in 1995, put Elliot on the map. This album not only got him signed to a bigger label (Kill Rock Stars Label), but it also featured a plethora of songs made into hits. Outstanding tracks include “Southern Belle,” “Coming up Roses,” and “Needle in the Hay,” which was not only a fan favorite, but was also featured in Wes Anderson’s 2001 film “The Royal Tenenbaums.” Each song off this self-titled album is raw emotion wound up in a beautifully strung guitar and soothing percussion. Elliott Smith has an angelic voice; his music, though wonderful, doesn’t need to carry him, and there’s nothing more relaxing than listening to him to sing.
Upon Elliott’s third album, Either/Or, released in 1997, Elliott was staring popularity in the face. The muffled, shy, heartbroken boy began to experiment and branch out to make his music even more unforgettable. Either/Or was the breaking point of the sappy, sad acoustic love songs. Though these songs were adored by fans across the board, Elliott’s talent could not be contained. His name had become quite big and this album also gave way to Elliott’s most prestigious career moment. After this release of Either/Or, Elliott made history for himself by having several tracks from Either/Or featured in the Oscar-Award Winning film “Good Will Hunting.” Aside from Elliott having featured tracks in the movie and on the soundtrack, he wrote a song especially for the film, “Miss Misery,” which was nominated for an Oscar, putting him front and center with the likes of Celine Dion and other assorted, big-name artists.
XO, Elliott’s fourth and perhaps, finest, album came out shortly after his moment at the Oscars. XO brings about the happiest side of misery anyone would ever see. This album has been said to be “Elliott’s idea of a good time.” The collaboration of horns, piano and a string section, with that signature acoustic guitar, brought Elliott up to a new level. XO exposed his ultimate potential and giving him even stronger credibility than he’d ever known. Must-hear songs from “XO” include “Baby Britain,” “Piteseleh,” and “Bled White.” “XO” was the beginning of what seemed to be a “pop” phase for Elliott and though every uppity beat and poppy melody was veiled with cynical, morbid undertones and lyrics, this mirage kept Elliott afloat and only made him more famous.
After two years, Figure 8 was released and it seemed to be the little brother to XO. Somewhat overproduced and even further delving into Elliott’s depression, the songs may come off as upbeat, but truly were foreshadowings of what were to come in the following years. The album was a success with several hit songs such as “Son of Sam,” “Pretty Mary K,” and “Somebody That I Used To Know.” It would be four years till Elliott Smith’s next and last album was to be debuted, but only three till his untimely death.
The 34-year-old musical genius was suddenly, but not surprisingly, gone. While having his final album, From a Basement on the Hill, still under wraps, the production team had to put together as much of the album as they could for a release, which ended up being in the following year. “From a Basement on the Hill” was highly acclaimed and sadly accepted as the true reason for Elliott Smith’s death became a mystery. Police officials assumed the two stabs to the chest were done in suicidal fashion, but upon further investigation, the coroner deemed there not to be enough evidence of either suicide or otherwise. Elliott’s death echoed his album: no closure, no reason, just action. This album was powerful on many different levels, somewhat to do with the fact that he was dead, but also because it was such a cry for help set to music. It was beautiful but all things must pass. Elliott Smith was an amazing musician who touched the hearts and moved the souls of everyone who listened to him. He eased the pain of others by assimilating with them through heartbroken words, but he couldn’t ease his own. Elliott Smith will be forever adored, admired, and missed in the music industry.
“I’m never gonna know you know/but I’m gonna love you anyhow,” Smith(“I’m Gonna Love You Anyhow”).