Smith, Elliott: Figure 8 (Vinyl 2xLP)
Smith, Elliott: Figure 8 (Vinyl 2xLP)

Smith, Elliott: Figure 8 (Vinyl 2xLP)

Regular price €37.95 €0.00 Unit price per

Elliott Smith began his solo career in a basement, recording the demo tape that would ultimately become his debut album, Roman Candle; from then onward, every new album of his sounded more polished, more ornate than the one before. With XO – his fourth album, and first on a major label – he struck a delicate balance of stripped-down simplicity and studio splendour. And then he took another step toward studio splendour,

Released on April 18, 2000, Smith’s fifth album, and the final one he completed in his lifetime, Figure 8 marked the moment when he fully embraced the possibilities of a proper studio and a major-label budget in pursuit of the perfect pop record. Depending on your view, it’s either his creative peak, or the outlier in his discography. The acoustic framework of its songs, which would have been songs all by themselves on an album like Elliott Smith or Either/Or, were now fleshed out with electric guitars, pianos, and strings. Save for the strings, and a few drum and bass parts, Smith played everything on the album himself.

Compared to those earlier albums, Figure 8 sounds more contented, if less personal. The bulk of its songs are written in the first person, but they feel much more impressionistic than the autobiographical “Son Of Sam,” “Pretty Mary K” and “LA.” When Smith does tell his own story on the album, he’s grappling with his rise to major-label stardom and its effects on his creativity, as on “Junk Bond Trader” and “Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud?.” “There’s a silver lining in the corporate cloud/And the pretty post that you’re taking as an NCO,” he seethes on the latter. When he sings “bored in the role, but he can’t stop” on “Can’t Make A Sound,” it’s clear he’s singing about himself.

Perhaps, eventually, Smith would have been able to reconcile his internal conflict between artistry, perfection, and fame, writing albums full of ambitious pop songs with happy endings, but it was not to be. After Figure 8, the addiction and depression that he had long struggled with worsened, pulling him into a black hole from which no music would emanate for three years. Smith’s journey, through life and music, was jagged and unidirectional, and it came to a premature end. But, true to its title, the musical world of Figure 8 feels endless, twisting and turning pop music upon itself into the strange and beautiful sounds its creator heard in his head.

2017 reissue.

  1. Son Of Sam
  2. Somebody That I Used To Know
  3. Junk Bond Trader
  4. Everything Reminds Me Of Her
  5. Everything Means Nothing To Me
  6. LA
  7. In The Lost And Found (Honky Bach)
  8. The Roost
  9. Stupidity Tries
  10. Easy Way Out
  11. Wouldn't Mama Be Proud?
  12. Color Bars
  13. Happiness
  14. The Gondola Man
  15. Pretty Mary K
  16. I Better Be Quiet Now
  17. Can't Make A Sound
  18. Bye

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