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from a basement on the hill Elliott Smithfrom a basement on the hill | elliott smith
an emily blunt review
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Bluntly speaking? The death of super musician Elliott Smith is still a very raw piece of pain, yet to be shunted from one's auditory vault.

Ironically, despite the deluge of suicide hints within this album, Smith did not arrange these songs as a "last message" to his fans. They already knew of his struggles with depression and drugs. And it's true, Smith died before the cd's release. But the album has really become a fifteen-song ode to Elliott if you will, its tracks handpicked (and arranged) by family and close friends, after our loss, from older and newer pieces he'd completed.

That morbid knowledge aside, "from a basement on the hill" holds simply some of Elliott's sweetest and most touching - raw and powerful - works ever recorded. Let this review ask you to forego the macabre real-life subtext surrounding Smith's final release, and allow yourself to just enjoy an extraordinary talent's remarkable work for the glorious and vibrant concert is really is.

Each track on "faboth" is so very different, yet still infused with Smith's signature ability to share a close pureness. He had a way of melding and shaping multiple themes of feeling. Like a craftsman with a block of cold marble, he'd chip away to find the refreshing chords beneath and backbeats below, that ultimately managed to crescendo with just the right amount of unique strokes illuminating this singular talent's ear for giving a song and melody breath. Elliott was truly an artist of word and sound.

Elliott's exquisite lyrics always cut deep and come riddled with crests of a searching, delicate, wounded soul. His incredible honesty and dissecting words awaken emotions that had been floating dormant just above the mind's nervous system, once blissfully en route to the heart. His notes and lyrics are like resuscitating breaths, stimulating and reminding us of emotions we all share, but keep carefully shrouded.

And the music. The music is a ballet of different instruments finely orchestrated that ignite that surreal lost world somewhere in our thoughts, where the heart and emotion are still allowed to speak freely without regard to pride or fear.

It is unfair to "highlight" any of these personal works. And Smith always insisted his songs were not as personal as listeners thought - hmm. Still there is an undeniable softness - a personal feel - to the tracks here especially. Both Track 2, 'Let's Get Lost' and track 11, ' Last Hour' have a subtle weeping guitar folded in with Smith's ethereal vocals that'll steal your heart, carefully wrap it in a silk scarf-like blanket of sound, and allow it to gently sail away from this world for awhile…Track 13, 'Memory Lane,' has an almost humorous, and devilishly deliberate bipolar feel. Its lyrics tell a dark, slice-of-life, tale, while the musical notes gleefully abound and dance a fluffy jig in determined contrast to the lyrics…that's Elliott Smith. His many different wonderful emotional rivers of a life that, musically, attempted to ebb away from his immeasurable emotional pain - but ultimately could never quite catch that wave back to the shore.

Though many of the indie-king's longtime followers will argue his X/O and Figure 8, cds are still Smith's strongest (Eweee - hold it! That's positively the wrong way to write it…). Er, they say the two are Smith's piece de resistances, shall I say. But, "from a basement on the hill" is filled with haunting and beautiful sonnet-esque thoughts within a spectacular symphony of sounds, that truly spotlight Smith's inspiring and exquisite musicianship. It is rough and gritty and oozing soul, yet his emotional carnival seems balanced with a reigning jubilance hovering just about the gloom.

If you're new to Smith, you really need to buy his collection to get a true experience, then turn it up and enjoy. Buy it

Track List:

Coast to Coast
Let's Get Lost
Pretty (Ugly Before)
Don't Go Down
Strung Out Again
King's Farewell
Ostriches and Chirping
Twilight
A Passing Feeling
Last Hour
Shooting Star
Memory Lane
Little One
A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity to be Free

 

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