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Elliott Smith - From A Basement On The Hill

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 18 / 10 / 2004

Elliott Smith - From A Basement On The Hill
Label: Domino Records
Format: CD


Last studio album album from the late, great Elliott Smith, which while unfinished at the time of his death last year, shows itself to be "one of his most well rounded and focused works"

Elliott Smith’s last studio album, ‘From a Basement on a Hill’ is apparently unfinished, yet is one of his most well rounded and focused works. There is nothing that sounds incomplete on this album, although that could be because Smith’s albums were always pretty raw. Many critics will over-analyse the lyrics on this album, try to find ‘proof’ that he was going to kill himself. Those critics will find plenty to pull out: there’s even one or two references to suicide in there. In reality, this proves nothing – Smith’s lyrics were always pretty depressed and he didn’t kill himself while making his previous albums. Of course, his words give you an idea of his character, but no-one can know a person properly by listening to their songs. No matter what his state of mind was at the time, Elliott Smith wrote some of the best songs of his career before he chose to take his life. Opener ‘Coast to Coast’ is a dark but melodic rocker and is followed by the acoustic ‘Let’s Get Lost’, which wouldn’t sound out of place on the Beatles’ ‘White Album’. ‘Pretty (Ugly Before)’ is one of the most upbeat tracks on the album but is apparently to do with drug abuse. Drug references are scattered across the album, most tellingly ‘A Distorted Reality is a Necessity to be Free’ which says it all in its title. Although it is best to avoid looking too closely at the songs of an artist that has committed suicide, it has to be said that ‘From a Basement…’ definitely has a more melancholy, messed up vibe than its predecessor, ‘Figure 8’. On the band numbers, the guitars sound grittier and grimier, while the acoustic songs sound more desperate. That said, Smith’s ability to create brilliant, sweet melodies is still there. ‘Twilight’ in particular is a beautiful song, delicate but very powerful in its hooks and chord changes. The music industry has a habit of releasing more and more albums by dead artists until listeners get sick of the sound of them, especially as a lot of the stuff released was never seen fit to be released. Hopefully, this won’t happen to Elliott Smith. ‘From a Basement on a Hill’ is a perfect swansong for him, reminding his fans what made him great in the first place – all that they need to say their goodbyes to a fantastic songwriter.

Track Listing:-
1 Coast To Coast
2 Let's Get Lost
3 Pretty (Ugly Before)
4 Don't Go Down
5 Strung Out Again
6 A Fond Farewell
7 King's Crossing
8 Ostrich And Chirping
9 Twilight
10 A Passing Feeling
11 The Last Hour
12 Shooting Star
13 Memory Lane
14 Little One
15 A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free

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