Some albums just seem timeless by their very nature, and such is the case with Elliott Smith and his eponymous record. What made Smith unique was his ability to be a singer/songwriter playing music in a way reminiscent of Nick Drake but with a sensibility that came from his own life and the darker era of the 1990’s. Call it grunge without a Fender Jaguar to scream emotions in your face. Instead he used light strumming on an acoustic guitar mixed with a thin voice that always seemed like it was on the cusp of breaking. He was heartbreaking and mesmerizing in the same breath. He was better off without the bombast of the era as is proven in his earlier band Heatmiser, which often times seemed like just another band trying to be the ‘flavour of the month,’ because, as hindsight has shown us, he was so much more.
So last night I’m sitting down at the computer to do some writing and I throw Elliott Smith onto Spotify… and I stop before “Needle In the Hay” is even half way finished. I shut down the computer and put the vinyl version on… everything opens up. Streaming just doesn’t capture the depth of low notes and emotional resonance; which is important with Smith or you miss out on the actual desolation being presented in the most beautiful of ways.
My advice, get a physical copy on CD or preferably vinyl, and let the music take you somewhere. The thing is you have quite a few choices. Since its original release in 1995 Kill Rock Stars in the US and Domino in the UK have released nine separate versions of this record. Early copies were on standard vinyl, but starting in starting in 2005 it has been released more in audiophile vinyl with two pressings in 180 Gram.
The first is standard black and is widely available at your local record retailers, while the second is a limited (1000) blue vinyl edition that can be ordered from Newbury Comics.
There is also an orange copy floating around out there but I couldn’t find a vinyl weight or release date for it.
Anyway, get a copy, listen, enjoy!