Elliott Smith

Kill Rock Stars, 1997

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


This disc has been sitting on my to-buy list for at least six months. Who knows what finally motivated me to purchase it after all this time, but I sincerely thank whatever forces happened to intervene when I went binge-ing on Amazon.com.

Either/Or, the third full length release from singer-songwriter Elliott Smith (also considered his last purely indie release) is, from start to finish, perfection. Sure, that might be a grandiose statement, but on this record, Smith truly has polished his blend of quirky pop to create an insightful, comfortable album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Speed Trials" is an ideal opener, showcasing Smith's lush acoustic melodies and whispery, honest vocals. It's backdropped by lyrics delivered in his signature low-key tone but the sentiment behind lyrics like "You little child, what makes you think you're tough / When all the people you think you're above / They all know what's the matter" is undeniable.

Next up is "Alameda," whose sentimental chorus and subtle, shuffling guitar arrangement make it one of the highlights of the album. The thing about Either/Or, though, is that it sounds best in its entirety -- one of the few in which each track is just as vital to the final result as the next.

On numerous occasions, Smith has been compared to Nick Drake, The Beach Boys and The Beatles, among others, and the effect of the latter is prevalent in his similar ability to shape the ideal, two minute or so chunk of endearing pop. Just listen to "Pictures Of Me" or ""Between The Bars," which never fails to remind me of "Blackbird."

No doubt, my favorite on the album is "Say Yes." It manages to encompass the highs and lows, agonies and uplift of relationship woes in lines like, "It's always been wait and see / A happy day and then you pay / And feel like shit the morning after."

Just listening to a track like "2:45 A.M." proves why Either/Or and Smith himself are near unparalleled. His lyrics are self-aware, open and never afraid to project his own vulnerability or faults. Whether he's bemoaning love or throwing caution to the wind in the strolling "Ballad Of Big Nothing," Smith contrasts the oft-appearing gloom and depression with engaging choruses and delicate acoustic arrangements.

So whether you're in love, out of love, angsty, contemplative or just in search of a soundtrack to wile away a half hour, Either/Or is the album for you. It may not be groundbreaking in its originality, but it will stick with you long after its run time, and that may just count for more.

Rating: A

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