Vinyl Vlog 423

Vinyl Vlog 423

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Tuesday, 12 May 2020
COLUMN

Elliott Smith
XO
(Bong Load 25th Anniversary)

photo: turntablelab.com

I thought I had closed the book on Elliott Smith in my life. He was thrust upon me by an ex girlfriend who was from Oregon. As you can imagine, you can’t be in high school in Oregon in the 90s and not be consumed by Elliott Smith’s music. And when you date someone like that, some of that stuff is going to rub off on you. I absorbed his last album From a Basement on a Hill and enjoyed it (because I was a punk and it was released by Epitaph records), but according to my ex, that wasn’t real Elliott Smith. She had Either Or and Figure 8 handy so I promptly absorbed those. I was starting to understand just how complex a musician Elliott Smith was and really appreciated his versatility as a song writer. Sure, his vocals were a bit processed and dainty, but you just have to understand it’s a quality that makes the music so unique.

Then we broke up. So, of course I couldn’t listen to Elliott Smith anymore. I had 3 of his albums under my belt, one of them was considered his masterpiece (Figure 8), so I had put in the work. I didn’t have to dwell on his music any longer. So, I didn’t listen for more than 10 years. It was my ex’s music.

Then Bong Load reissued his albums and I couldn’t help but revisit his music. It was like I was hearing it for the first time. Really listening to it. The thing I started to appreciate about his albums was how they were all over the place in genre yet still sounded like a cohesive project. There was intent there, and Smith was just so skilled at composition that he’d have you listen to a punk song and then a waltz without you even noticing. It’s so engaging that way.

Another thing that stands out is just how much there is to unpack in each album. Figure 8 was not quite a behemoth clocking in at 52 minutes, but XO is just 45 minutes and yet is seems so much longer. It’s a testament to how Smith’s music takes twists and turns and is rich in texture. Whether it’s the vocals, or the lyrics, or the guitars, or the tempo, or the sadness, or silliness, you go through so much with XO that you feel like you’ve gone through a life’s worth of experience. XO has everything Elliott Smith is known for doing well in as small a package as possible. Sure, it’s not the go-to album for fans, but it just might be his best album.

This Bong Load reissue is just a sight to behold and is probably the current gold standard for XO. It comes with beautifully reproduced cover and insert, all pressed on a gorgeous smoky hazel vinyl and numbered from an edition of 2016. That’s some cool stuff right there.

XO is Elliott Smith’s grown-up album. Listen to it carefully and you’ll discover the genius of his music.

Get it from Bong Load.

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