I’ve lived in Oregon all my life, and in Portland for the last 17 years. I miss a lot of things about the Portland of the late-90’s that have since changed, but I miss Elliott Smith’s music more than anything. It’s still hard for me to believe he’s been gone for over a decade, and maybe that’s because this city has done such an amazing job of keeping his spirit alive. I was able to see him play solo at our now-deceased, legendary rock club, Satyricon, a few times in the early 2000’s, and I’m so glad I did.
Of course, we’ll always have his music, so if you’ve never experienced Smith’s mastery of melody and knack for leaving a knot in even the most steady of stomachs, it’s never too late. CD Baby is proud to be a home to Elliott Smith’s music, and if you’re looking for a place to start with the man’s vast catalog, let me see if I can help you along.
Want a quick overview of Smith’s work? Start here. Featuring songs spanning his entire career, this collection can’t help but leave out tracks that many would deem essential, but if you’re starting from scratch, this ain’t a bad place to begin.
Famously recorded to 4-track cassette in a dank basement, this is Elliott Smith’s first full-length solo effort, made when he was still a member of the band Heatmiser. The audio quality is the scratchiest in Smith’s catalog, but it only adds to the charm. Songs like “Condor Ave” and “No Name #4” still hold up amongst his finest work.
Smith’s first proper LP (he went into the studio for this one) marks the moment when Portland and the rest of the indie-rock world started to realize what they had their hands on here: a songwriting talent like we hadn’t seen before. Songs like “Southern Belle” are more aggressive than previous compositions, while “Christian Brothers” and “St. Ides Heaven” betray their titles with delicate, beautiful melodies.
Many cite Either/Or as Smith’s quintessential record – this is the one released just prior to his unexpected rise-to-fame with the song “Miss Misery” on the Good Will Hunting Soundtrack. Classic Smith tracks included here: “Say Yes,” “Rose Parade,” “Angeles,” but pretty much every song on this album is more than worthy of your time.
Smith released a few albums on the Dreamworks label following Either/Or, and this posthumous album collects the tracks he had completed (or almost completed) before his untimely death. Simultaneously moving and troubling, these songs are Smith laid bare; some of his most intimate songs both lyrically and musically. Make sure to check out “Pretty (Ugly Before),” “Memory Lane,” and “A Fond Farewell.”
It can’t be stated enough how honored CD Baby is to help share Elliott Smith’s music with the world. Start anywhere: you won’t be disappointed.