I got into Elliott Smith in high school, several years after he had died under tragic and inexplicable circumstances. From 2006 to 2008, the primary way that I consumed music was going to the downtown branch of the Cincinnati public library to peruse their extensive, if shoddily organized, CD collection, and one of my favorite records I ever discovered was Smith’s posthumous record, New Moon. From the first strums of “Angel In The Snow”, I was in love. From that final, posthumous record, I worked backwards.
That is why it is so crazy that today marks the 20th anniversary of Smith’s second LP Elliott Smith. The most striking thing about that record when listening to it through this nostalgic lens is that it already sounds like essential Elliott Smith, like he was a fully formed artist from the very beginning of his career. Sure there were evolutions in his guitar playing, instrumentation, and song structures, but he had a solidified artistic vision from the start. One of my favorite Smith ideas occurs in the third track “Clementine”, when Smith sings about an angel in the snow. The very real and sad idea of something that you think will be an indelible mark slowly melting away is extremely powerful, and even more cosmically tragic that “Angel In The Snow” ultimately emerges as the first song on a posthumous record.
I could go on for a while about why he is such a uniquely excellent and important musician, but the best way to appreciate is to listen to the music, which you should absolutely do below.