Currently celebrating the fact I had the wisdom to make the spontaneous purchase of Elliot Smith on vinyl a few months ago. Called “An Introduction to Elliott Smith,” it has some of my most favorite tracks including the original “Miss Misery” and “Twilight.” After a weekend with rained-out plans and little to do but listen to the storm and my head and the music, I put this on and heard Smith the closest to the way I did when I first discovered his work: closed up, locked up and searching for serenity.
People will tell you he is sad and melodramatic. He certainly can be those things, but listening to his music has such a profound, uplifting effect when you’re already mostly down. It’s partly his playing style, patient and plucky, and largely his vocal delivery, as delicate and withdrawn as he was. His heat so obviously broken always – even when he’s a little more aggressive about it, or when it’s barely beating. He’s a songwriter’s songwriter, when it comes to the simplicity he displayed. The best lines that punch you in the chest are the ones that come with the least anticipation, like in this little two-verse lament. The rhymes are elementary, accessible, as they toss around these concepts of love and loss and death and lucidity.
There’s something so somber-pleasant about his work, like wildflowers plucked off by the wind.
“I’m waiting for the train
Subway that only goes one way
The stupid thing that’ll come to pull us apart,
And make everybody late.
You spent everything you had
Wanted everything to stop that bad,
Now I’m a crashed credit card registered to Smith –
Not the name that you called me with.
You turned white like a saint,
I’m tired of dancing on a pot of gold-flaked paint.
Oh we’re so very precious, you and I.And everything that you do makes me want to die,
Oh I just told the biggest lie.
I just told the biggest lie.
The biggest lie.“
~The Biggest Lie
Elliott Smith, Elliot Smith