About Me

My photo
Cork, Ireland
An Irish based alternative music blog. Music news, gigs, live reviews, album reviews... You'll find them here. If you want anything featured or removed, please shout. I hope you'll discover something new to love on this little experiment of mine. Currently editing the Music Section of the UCC Express and contributing to Motley magazine on campus, as well as writing for PopCultureMonster and 4FortyFour. Always looking for new projects so please get in touch if interested. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Classic Albums: 10 Years Ago

The last ten years have been pretty good for music: easily the most important in the formation of my musical tastes. As a result, I'm planning on starting a regular feature in which I will look at the major releases and the likes that are celebrating their tenth anniversary.

This week, I'll be taking a look at Figure 8, the fifth studio album released by American singer-songwriter Elliott Smith. Released on April 18th, 2000 in the US, Figure 8 was sadly the last album completed by Smith before his tragic death in October 2003.

Smith himself described the lyrics on this album as "more... fragmented and dreamlike" and the album as a whole certainly has a different vibe to his earlier works with a notable Beatles influence [see track 7, In the Lost and Found (Honky Bach)/The Roost]

Rolling Stone also attributed the plethora of glorious rustic music that has come from the Pacific North-West to this record, suggesting that the likes of the Decemberists and Fleet Foxes may have taken a rather different form had this release not achieved such success.

Whether this is true or not, it is impossible to deny the tremendous beauty of this album. Uplifting melodies and rhythms are complemented by some haunting and tragic lyrics - an aspect that dominated all of Smith's work, though was more prevalent on this record than ever before.

The cover of the album shows Smith standing in front of the 'Figure 8' painting on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. This wall became a shrine to Smith following his death and was adorned with touching fan messages, though it was sadly vandalised. It has been returned to its original state since.

To pick a solitary album highlight is very difficult: the aforementioned In the Lost and Found... is a gorgeous indicator of the fantastic Beatlesesque pomp that Smith sought to experiment with, though the likes of Son of Sam and Happiness, and the haunting Everything Reminds Me Of Her, encapsulate the sound the Elliott wanted to be known for.

His off-beat indie-folk approach to this album horrified many die-hard fans, in particular those who had discovered him via Roman Candle, as it marked such a departure from his earlier lo-fi recordings, in a similar fashion to the preceding release, XO.

One reviewer referred to this album as "what the Beatles would have sounded like if Nick Drake had replaced Paul". To me, it shows what this under-appreciated folk genius could do if he was given the tools. Now don't get me wrong, I adore Elliott's earlier work just as much as this, though I refuse to dismiss it as many fans did - an indicator of sheer snobbery. The album is a masterful work. Several of the tracks are as good as anything Elliott ever recorder and released, while the album as a whole appreciates the dual aspects of his musical style: direct, naked, honest, while equally distant and obscure in parts.


Elliott Smith, Figure 8: 8.5/10. [April 2000 on DreamWorks]

No comments:

Post a Comment