Elliott Smith New Moon

[Kill Rock Stars; 2007]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: Acoustic, Singer/Songwriter
Others: Jason Anderson, Cat Power, Earlimart, Sparklehorse

Elliott Smith’s last gasp is still heavily debated four years after the fact, and it’s considerably depressing to know that such a talented light was extinguished in such a manner. Up to this point, Smith’s legacy had been firmly planted with his final, albeit posthumous work, 2004’s From A Basement On The Hill. Far from perfect, Basement seemed to at least capture a pivotal crest for the singer/songwriter, even with the songs lacking a true final mix and the essence of too many cooks in the kitchen.

It’s somewhat of a relief that Kill Rock Stars has the final say on Smith’s output, and New Moon attempts to capture Smith’s uncanny ability to turn the mundane into something extraordinary. The songs culled for New Moon are from a prodigious period in Smith’s musical career (mainly 1994-1997), and several tracks on the album tend to blend together without much to distinguish them from each other. Here again are songs about early-morning stumbling, past loves, alcohol, and life on the blurriest of edges.

The LP kicks off with the single-ready “Angel in the Snow.” While not as good as just about anything off Smith’s eponymous debut or 1997’s Either/Or, it could easily fit at the end of either. Smith had a natural tendency to pour his bruised heart into each song, and you can hear the ache and strain each syllable has caused his nimble frame.

It’s not all cry-in-your-beer, however; songs like “High Times” grumble noisily, but do so without leaving much of a trace, and “Riot Coming” sounds dangerous enough to prove Smith still had a little of the Heatmiser spunk left to shout about. “Fear City” goes for the full-band feel and floats on a nice synth line. There are also “early versions” of songs like “Pretty Mary K,” transformed to what could almost be considered a swamp boogie, complete with Smith’s rolling guitar and some tight drumming. It doesn’t all work as nicely as one would hope, but it's distinctive of Smith’s many talents and proves he knew what he was up to when things took such a dramatic shift for both XO and Figure 8. You can hear him trying to figure things out, and that’s the most lasting and vital aspect of New Moon. Its head is in the right place, its author aiming for the stars.

Most Read