Something for the weekend – Episode #43 – Elliott Smith “Figure 8”

I guess the time has come to review one of the best albums made by one of my favourite artists of all times…

Elliott Smith – “Figure 82000

Acclaimed indie singer/songwriter with an affecting presence and evocative lyricism who died tragically young” (All Music). I would not be able to better describe Elliott Smith and his art. I must confess that, despite his music probably representing to me everything I like either in terms of subtle lyrics, melodies, arrangements or again this mix of softness and power, it is always difficult to listen to his records as it brings a sort of constant sadness about his life. It must sound stupid but I even asked myself the question about what I could have done as a fan of his music. I know it does not make sense and that people suffering from depression are what they are… After spending the first part of his complicated youth in different US cities, Elliott Smith made a name of himself within the Portland, OR scene, as a member of rock band Heatmiser and also with his first beautiful solo albums. Through word of mouth, Gus Van Sant asked him to contribute to the soundtrack of his “Good Will Hunting” movie, which gave a surreal exposure to Elliott Smith at the 1998 Oscar awards ceremony (video below).

Figure 8” is his fifth record and the last one that was released when he was still alive. His six albums are all recommended, although I personally cannot get enough of the 1998/2000 sequence (“Either/Or“, “XO” and “Figure 8“). On this record, at a time when his mental health and addiction to drugs were bringing him down, he actually was at his best artistically speaking. Partially recorded at the prestigious Abbey Road studios in London, he succeeded in including his obsession with The Beatles in his songs, creating a beautiful mix of ‘now’ music with strong past influences. This is no secret that “The White Album” was his favourite piece of music and the influences can clearly be found in “Figure 8“. Although there are a few musical guests on the record, like for instance the excellent Pete Thomas on drums (member of Elvis Costello & The Attractions), Elliott Smith is the one playing the majority of the different instruments. He was a very talented musician for sure but also a sublime and moving lyricist. Songs like ‘Son Of Sam‘, ‘Everything Means Nothing To Me‘ or again ‘Happiness‘ are masterpieces as far as I am concerned and should be listened to on a regular basis. If not done yet, do not miss this record and the rest of what he released in a relatively short period of time.

Format: CD Bought in: 2000. To be noted: Figure 8 is a famous move amongst skaters and could be interpreted as a never-ending desire for perfection. The painting shown on the cover is still there on a wall in Los Angeles and has become a sort of memorial for those who want to pay tribute to this great artist. Rating: 10/10

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