As a self-proclaimed music enthusiast, it’s sometimes hard to gauge what I think other people might like because personal bias gets in the way a lot. Something that I’ve connected to holds a lot more significance to me than to some stranger. I couldn’t hand a shoegaze CD to a random man walking down the street and expect him to fall in love with it. But like all audiophiles, I started somewhere, and certain artists broadened my musical taste to include more genres. One of those artists is Elliott Smith.
From the lo-fi simplicity of his self-titled and Either/Or to the lush arrangements on XO and Figure 8, I somewhat revere Elliott as a musical genius across all spectrums. However, coercing others into recognizing his brilliance is not an easy task. It takes a certain kind of listener to appreciate the vast variety of his catalogue. His most acclaimed work by the general public would most likely be Either/Or, partially due to it’s prominence on the Good Will Hunting soundtrack. It is because of this album that Elliott became known for thin, dark, acoustic ballads.
Many attempts at “introductory” albums have been made, but most of them pull strongly from Either/Or, partially due it’s acclaim and partly because of the cheaper licensing while he was on Kill Rock Stars. However, these compilations fail to delve deep into his discography, and would probably fail to enlighten a new listener to Elliott’s fine ear for music.
Instead, I say, that one should go backwards through Elliott’s music, starting with Figure 8. Personal bias aside, I think Figure 8 is the most streamlined form of Elliott’s music. It has the catchy radio single, the softer acoustic folk songs, and the lush instrumentals.