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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Elliott Smith
From a Basement on the Hill
Anti- Records

Rating: 9/10 ?


October 1, 2004
Hotel memo pad with the following line scribbled on it in an almost indecipherable font:

"Everything's gone but the echo of the burst of a shell and a melody - both things droning on demons from a heavenly hell."

That is probably the most accurate description of the life of Elliott Smith that anyone will ever read. By now everyone knows the story of Smith's [alleged] suicide earlier this year. We all know of his history of depression that has always been present in his music. I'm not here to talk about that. I'm here to give thanks that Smith had finished almost all of this record before his passing. This, the record that, in my mind at least, eclipses all of his previous releases. The most tragic part of the whole story might be that Elliott never got to hear the finished version of his masterwork.

The album starts off with a bang: "Coast To Coast" is unusually upbeat, and features all kinds of wonderful jangly guitars and off-kilter piano-key banging. "Still you're keepin' me around/Till I finally drag us both down..." he laments over the swarm of guitars. "Anything that I could do/would never be enough for you." The second track, "Let's Get Lost" is classic Elliott: simple guitar lines under his nearly hushed, whisper-like vocals.

Next is the lead single, the phenomenal "Pretty (Ugly Before)." It starts off with a light guitar strum under Elliott's soft vocals, and with the smoothest of drum fills, kicks into a nice light groove. The bass line dances all over the place while the simple piano chords play footsie with the electric guitars that are circling all around. At one point there is a fantastic White Album-esque guitar solo that is absolutely heart-melting.

This record manages to plow through so many styles and emotions; I almost don't know where to start. It goes from light to heavy to haunting to churning to whimsical, sarcastic to frolicking, exuberant to utterly depressed, in what seems like the same breath. It is really the crowning achievement for a career that will go down in history as one of the most musically brilliant this world has ever seen.

The album is capped off with the soulful "A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free," a biting commentary on our country. "It's so disappointing/first I'll put it all down to luck/God knows why my country don't give a fuck," he laments. God knows, indeed.

It is truly sad to lose someone like Elliott Smith, no matter how you felt about his music or the way he lived his life. The fact of the matter is, Elliott Smith is one of a dying breed of singer/songwriters who aren't afraid to speak their mind and heart. He always wore his heart on his sleeve and offered it to anyone in need. He will be missed, and I can't think of any better remembrance of his life than this final masterpiece.

Reviewed by Stephen Smith
In a recent staff survey Stephen Smith included a picture of his cat, Nikolai, since he said he didn\'t have any of himself.

See other reviews by Stephen Smith

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