Friday, January 13, 2012

Elliott Smith - Either/Or

gone at last...

There is something powerful in embracing darkness, when it arises. In not wasting energy pretending to be all happyhappy mr fucking sunshine, instead preserving that vital chi to go through whatever the hell is making you feel that way in the first place.

This inevitably occurs, in this lifetime, on the coattails of any prolonged ecstatic state, the smiling shadow of happiness; what goes up must come down. Simple physics.

Found myself plummeting from the summits, late last night, burned out, tired, hungry, lonely. Pulled out this dusty gem, Elliott Smith's third full length, Either/Or, to get me through, to see the sunrise. Like a visit from an old friend, that understands you completely, where you need not speak a word. The depth and weight of years and memories, wrapped me in velveteen wings, and i was... comforted.

At this point, i've been listening to Elliott Smith's music for years, and there is a nostalgia to this music, but it is not a trip down narcotic memory lane. This music breathes and sings. It gets better and better.

His music has taken on new depth and breadth of associations since i moved to Portland, where he spent a lot of his life, and recorded a lot of his famous work. Names, dates, and places from the city of roses litter his records, and his songs flow through my head as i wander and explore my new home.

I also hear his echoes and reflections in so much music that is coming out now. Its like he's hardwired into our generation's genetic code. The lush, yet still lo-fi, recording style, the introverted multi-tracking bedroom auteur, the self effacing lyrics. I hear it everywhere from M Ward to Stephen Steinbrink, not to mention a billion and one living room concerts. He's like the patron saint of lonely, self doubting artists everywhere.

As i get into making records of my own, i appreciate these records more and more. They sound fucking awesome. He was such a brilliant guitarist (i don't hear enough about his guitar playing), the sweet vocal harmonies.... everything tastefully placed, everything just so. It inspires me, every time i hear it; has me rushing for a guitar and a microphone.

You've probably heard this record before, but maybe you haven't. I like to occasionally remind people of old favorites, not to mention provide a skylight into my experience. I don't want this blog to be about the new, flashy trend. There is nothing like getting to know a record, over days and weeks and years; how it changes as you change, how you perceive with the eyes of different epochs and experiences. There was a point when i was listening to his albums, when i was hopeless and dead drunk, trapped in rural Indiana, no money, no future, drowning in depression and alcohol; it comforted me then, too. Now, 6 years on, i am living in the city where he made these records, and the sky is bright. That contrast, that experience, is what drags me out of the pits, out of the blues, what gets me through my days and lonely nights.

So maybe you've never checked out Elliott Smith. Or maybe its been a while since you've listened to this particular album. Or perhaps you might listen again, and wonder what its like to be me, and be lifted out of yrself for a moment.

Thanks Elliott, for all the beautiful music. Sorry you were so fucking miserable.

1 comment:

  1. as much as i hate him and all his fans, there is a large amount of his collection that is incredibly and deeply touching to me like a modern Donovan whom I've known since I was a kid. it's just frowned upon and considered gay by bros. pretty sure if you're in your 20s and 30s and not affected by any of these songs you're a fucking asshole.