Elliott Smith – Figure 8 (2000)
Elliott Smith is well known for his emotional acoustic music, and his album Figure 8 is inarguably the pinnacle of his success. It’s sadly also the last. Originally signed to Kill Rock Stars, this sees a departure to DreamWorks Records, but then Smith always did cut a funny shape to his KRS mates – most of them engulfed in the post-punk and riot grrrl that remains the label’s trademark sound. Replacing their raw energy with his own honest reflection, the man’s songs have nevertheless always been an empowering reminder of his talents.
Opener “Son of Sam” chimes an innocent and ironically upbeat melody set to lyrics regarding the notorious murderer of the same name. The song introduces a sound that washes over the entire album, pairing major with minor and playing the two off against one another. Dark and brooding, it’s songs like “Everything Reminds Me Of Her” and “In the Lost and Found” that hint at Smith’s deep struggle with depression, but if you were to ignore the lyrics entirely Figure 8 could easily be mistaken for an optimistic record.
Smith is often described as a wordsmith capable of protégée Conor Oberst’s sentiment, yet with accomplished vocals that far outreach the Bright Eyes front man. Honestly Figure 8 (and as a rule all of his albums) peg Smith of a far higher class. “Somebody That I Used to Know” – the most blatantly melancholic track – proves my point, making better comparison to George Harrison.
Though Smith’s tragic death gained him some well deserved fame, sort of like the van Gogh of the music world, Figure 8 is still vastly underestimated. It should regularly feature on Top Ten lists, but it doesn’t. Soundtracks should universally close with a Smith song, but they don’t. Critics should hail and make frequent reference to Smith’s genius, and though they would readily admit it at a push, they still neglect him from their articles. It’s just…odd.
- Tiffany Daniels