It was during my teenagehood, I think the year before I go to college, that I first listened to Elliott Smith. That distant day is still clear in my memories. It was summer and I was waiting for a friend to come and pick me up and go out. I had already drunk some beers and prepared with good music. It was during that time that I had discovered the Seatle rock scene, through Modest Mouse and Sunny Day Real Estate. Also bands like Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr were on my playlist. It was a period that I was building my own music taste, which would last to this day.
As I entered in the car, I heard my first Elliott Smith lyrics. “You walk down alameda shuffling your deck of trick cards over everyone”. I stopped paying attention to my friend who was talking something. I was so drawn by the emotional voice and the message it so honestly trying to pass through. We ended up reaching our destination, but ended up going around the neighborhood, because I wanted to listen to the whole album.
I can’t possibly put into words how much this album helped me later on in my life, when after a devastating loss I chose it to be my only friend. This is pretty much the message behind Elliott Smith’s music. As Benjamin Nugent correctly puts it in the first pages of his book ‘Elliott Smith and The Big Nothing‘ : We all met Elliott Smith’s music in a difficult stage in our life.
For someone who created such a simple music, Elliott is hard to explain. Either Or is the album that solidified his characteristic sound. The album also landed him an Oscar nomination for Good Will Hunting in 1996. For these reasons Either Or is considered by many of his fans his best album. Kill Rock Stars Records honored its’ 20th anniversary, by reissuing an expanded edition.
Recording engineer Larry Crane recalls on an interview some moments from the making of the album. “We were at Brownies in Portland. We were watching him destroy the room, totally quiet, everyone watching him while he killed it?” he says. “Those moments connected Either/Or for me because that’s the peak of his live time (before his battle with alcoholism).” There is so much talk around Elliott Smith during those day. Everybody talked about him. People that worked with him praised him and called him a musical genious. As Elliott was too modest and never discussed his music in that light, the music world knew.
With so much discussion around his name, there is hardly any aspect of his life left unburied. His uncompleted gems, which hs closed ones discovered after his death in 2003, reveal that there was much more in his music, than the melancholic streams in Either Or. Rob Schapf published some of them were in 2004. After his death in the album From A Basement on The Hill came out.