LOST TRACKS : Good CDs We Overlooked Last Year
Compared with, say, the posthumously prolific Tupac Shakur, singer-songwriter Elliott Smith has had a relatively dignified afterlife. "New Moon," a two-disc collection of outtakes and demos issued last May, is only the second release since Smith died a likely suicide in 2003.
It offers a rough sketch of Smith's output from 1994-97, before his "Good Will Hunting" theme, "Miss Misery," brought an Oscar nomination and attendant amounts of woe and during the time he was doing some of his best work.
Many of the tracks here were recorded during sessions for "Elliott Smith" and the equally terrific "Either/Or." Some have made their way onto various compilations; most are relatively unheard. And virtually all are scuffed-up acoustic tracks, quavery and sad, presented in as close to their original state as possible.
"New Moon" seems almost like an actual, unreleased Elliott Smith album, without the patched-together, scrounged-from-the-vaults feel of many posthumous discs: The emotional territory is familiar (Smith wanted to find love, to score, to be left alone), the vocals are predictably whispery (despite plentiful overdubs), and most tracks sound as if they were recorded in a basement or a bedroom, which they sometimes were.
Some songs are fully realized, like a raw-nerve cover of Big Star's "Thirteen"; others are sketches, like the "Either/Or" outtake "Seen How Things Are Hard" (recorded on a four-track cassette), and an early version of "Miss Misery," still recognizable despite different wording that gave it, however briefly, an optimistic feel.
-- Allison Stewart
DOWNLOAD THESE:"Talking to Mary," "Thirteen," "Whatever (Folk Song in C)," "Seen How Things Are Hard"