Vinyl Vlog 385

Vinyl Vlog 385

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Wednesday, 12 June 2019
COLUMN

Elliott Smith
Figure 8

(photo: turntablelab.com)

We’ve all had bands thrusted upon us. It happens all the times and is a totally viable way of getting into music. Sometimes it’s a band we’re tried to avoid for some reason like the Beatles who I never bothered with because I thought I was too busy with other music. But of course, the Beatles are the kind of music you have to play subconsciously in your head as a reference. My girlfriend at the time was responsible for the Beatles. She was also responsible for Elliott Smith. She was an Oregon girl in the sweater club in high school in the 90s. Elliott Smith existed almost exclusively for her. And he was an artist I didn’t have an excuse for not liking. He was still active at the time and had actually moved to Epitaph Records which was the home to much of the punk rock I was defaulting to. So, to me, the idea of getting into Elliott Smith totally made sense. Sure, he sounded different, and he’s definitely not for everyone, but he was definitely for me. Then, my girlfriend and I broke up and I never revisited his music until now.

It’s a beautiful thing that Bong Load Records are back in business. That name is familiar to me as a Beck fan. And this return also brings a return to their Elliott Smith catalog. What a perfect time to revisit his music.

Listening to Elliott Smith for me is a totally loaded idea now. Considering his legacy and the context in which he made music, it feels like a heavy thing to want to revisit. Relistening to Figure 8 after all these years, the first thing that I noticed is just how upbeat this music sounds after all these years. And instead of sounding aged it sounds surprisingly refreshing and contemporary. Figure 8 sounds unlike the time capsule I thought it would and I found myself newly interested in Elliott Smith’s music and remembering the strong melodies and tone in these songs. That’s just a testament for how strong his writing has always been. Also Figure 8 is long. Much longer than I remember. Sixteen tracks is not nothing, but these songs go through different stages and expand and contract. They just keep on giving. Is this Elliott Smith at his peak? I’m not in a position to say, but I can say that I am completely impressed with him all over again.

Figure 8 never really went out of print, but it’s great seeing it back on its original home at Bong Load for its anniversary release. It’s been pressed on double coke bottle 180g LPs, completely remastered, and numbered. That’s a cool and personal detail for music that’s so personal.

Figure 8 is quiet, haunting, sad, cheerful and rocking all at the same time and in a way that sounds cohesive. That’s something you don’t come across every day, and proves that Elliott Smith’s legacy is earned.

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