Tag: elliott-smith-week

It simply couldn’t be an Elliott Smith week without some songs featuring drug references! Some of the Internet wants to argue about which he drugs he wrote about in which songs, but since that is roughly impossible to ascertain, I’m not going to bother. I will say, however, that the lyrics he wrote on the subject have much more depth than your average musician, let alone rapper. One of Eric Clapton’s most popular songs ends every line in cocaine (not that he wrote it), and people gobble it up. On the other hand, Elliott Smith is writing and singing about “the cold white brother riding your blood, like spun glass in sore eyes.” And he wrote that when he was 25. So uhm, way to make me feel extremely under-accomplished!

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Coming Up Roses by Elliott Smith on Grooveshark

A lot of Smith’s music had an elegant simplicity to them, which is perfectly exemplified in Needle in the Hay. Despite the compositional simplicity though, the lyrics paint a deep and rather harrowing account of what seems to be heroin addiction. Like Roman Candle, Smith is writing music for himself in this song – not as a cry for help, but just as a way of saying what he wanted to say. As a result, it is a deeply troubling song: there is no remorse in the lyrics, just a tortured acceptance of the situation.

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Needle in the Hay by Elliott Smith on Grooveshark

To come from Smith’s rock background in Heatmiser to this, the first track off the eponymous album, represents a wonderfully dramatic tonal shift. It’s a sound reduced to an acoustic guitar, a little bit of electric accompaniment and Smith’s tortured singing. It is a song of quiet, raw viciousness: heartfelt in its expression of fury and despair, and at no point melodramatic. It speaks purely to Smith’s state of being at the time, which flowed up and down with each album. It also not only highlights his technical prowess with musical composition, but his sheer magnificence as a poet. This song doesn’t feel as if Smith is writing for the purposes of entertaining an audience; rather, it perhaps represented the only way he could communicate to anyone who wanted to listen.

In a world where musicians are constantly informing us that they write their heart into their songs, only to then release hackneyed drivel, there are songs like Roman Candle to remind us that music can still be a powerful method of communication.

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Roman Candle by Elliott Smith on Grooveshark

I won’t be specifically attempting to post Elliott’s most depressing songs, but him being the troubled soul that he was, it’s inevitable that a good few of his songs are also troubled. Since he never intended his first album to be released, many of the songs are incredibly personal, dealing with subject matter that he may not have wanted to have an audience. His vocals on Last Call barely subdue the frustration and anger evident in the lyrics, while the guitar dances around in your head. An amazing song that any honest musician would have killed to write, though very few could deliver with the same emotional force that Mr. Smith does here.

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Last Call by Elliott Smith on Grooveshark

This week, either/or celebrates the artist who gave us our name. That’s right, it’s a week devoted to the musical work of singer/songwriter Steven Paul “Elliott” Smith! Just like our Beatles Week, we’ll be bringing you a selection of songs from every album he released in his lifetime. You’ll get two tunes from each album a day: one from Hugh and one from myself, and altogether they’ll (hopefully) represent the most appropriate set of tunes to introduce you to his wonderful range of work. So without further ado, a with a (belated) happy birthday to the man, let’s head on in!

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