Song of the Day #1,360: ‘Angeles’ – Elliott Smith

Best Albums of the 90s – #14
Either/Or – Elliott Smith (1997)

Either/Or was not my first exposure to Elliott Smith and challenges my “first love” theory by being my favorite by far.

I discovered Smith through his follow-up record, 1998’s XO, then sought out his back catalog. All of his albums have a similar mood and sound, with varying levels of production values, but Either/Or hits the sweet spot.

It’s not as raw as his previous albums, not as polished as its successors — Elliott Smith’s Goldilocks moment. And the songwriting here is simply brilliant, with Smith’s intricate, delicate acoustic guitar work driving sad tunes about loneliness, heartbreak and escape.

Based on his music, Elliott Smith must have been the saddest man in the world. His suicide certainly drove the point home. How bizarre when personal turmoil meets artistic talent and creates powerful art — the audience’s gain comes at the expense of his pain.

Either/Or is Smith’s saddest album. Ironically, his music was trending toward a more upbeat and poppy sound before he took his life. This record is the ultimate downer, but in the best way. It demands your attention, demands to be listened to in a quiet room, whispered right into your ears.

Someones always coming around here trailing some new kill
Says I seen your picture on a hundred dollar bill
And whats a game of chance to you, to him is one of real skill
So glad to meet you
Angeles

Picking up the ticket shows theres money to be made
Go on and lose the gamble that’s the history of the trade
You add up all the cards left to play to zero
And sign up with evil
Angeles

Dont start me trying now
Cos I’m all over it
Angeles

I could make you satisfied in everything you do
All your secret wishes could right now be coming true
And be forever with my poison arms around you
No ones gonna fool around with us
No ones gonna fool around with us
So glad to meet you
Angeles

One thought on “Song of the Day #1,360: ‘Angeles’ – Elliott Smith

  1. Dana says:

    Such a great talent, and such a loss. It is so terribly ironic that the emotional angst that led to such great music and at least some level of success also led to his demise. One can only wonder what kind of music he would have made had he lived—would he have found contentment in life, yet still have the ability to channel brooding emotion, or would he have put out lighter fare while still maintaining the uniqueness of his style and sound? I so wish he would have found a way to manage his demons so that we could have found out what more he had to offer.

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