I was a youthful thirteen years old when I first heard Elliott Smith for the first time in August of 2002. I had just left the Alaska State Fair with a mix of friends and strangers. We all laid around a room listening to a mix CD, and the first track happened to be Smith’s “Say Yes.”
Though it seems it’s one of his more simple songs, it hit me like a brick to the gut and psyche. Music was forever changed for me that day. I couldn’t get enough of him from “Miss Misery” to “Christian Brothers” and then I stumbled on the whole Figure 8 album which figuratively brought me to my knees in amazement. This man was a fucking genius. At that time little did I know his life was riddled with addiction, mental illness and that this creative genius was a cathartic spew of his deepest pain. So, as nostalgic and beautiful as those memories are it’s also melancholic because a year after I discovered his light at the end of his tunnel, he took his own life.
The throes of addiction, mental illness coupled with the deep claws of a major label seemed to have thrown Smith over the edge. Fast forward to today, there was a documentary released about his life’s work in his music and genius titled Heaven Adores You. From the Heatmiser days to the latest and greatest album that served almost as his suicide note to the world From a Basement on a Hill. There were some songs on the film that had not been previously released, and also some good oldies that everyone can relate to such as “LA” and “Going Nowhere” from his previously released albums. Today, they released the soundtrack to said documentary and it is fire for anyone deeply involved and even mildly obsessed with his craft – like me.
It is a montage of his work from unreleased songs to rarities and live versions of songs we all know as well as earlier or altered versions. I think my favorite song off the album is “True Love,” though his version of “Plain Clothes Man,” a song he did with in his earlier days is a masterpiece as well. Smith has a way of roping you in with his humming melodies, overlapping paper thin vocals and completely enthralling guitar and piano. His guitar style hardly needs any back up, he’s the type of player who has
his own rhythm section within his guitar playing style which makes it more dynamic and full. The kicker is that this man is fully capable and very talented at playing just about any instrument you could imagine and recorded a majority of his work by himself. There are some songs on this album that are strictly instrumental.. which to me is almost a travesty because his vocals make him such an icon, though his distinction lies everywhere.
There are a few rare songs, like “Don’t Call me Billy”and “I love my room” that are borderline hilarious and not his usual cynical and melancholic style. (Think Sliver by Nirvana.) There are 20 tracks that are rare or pivotal to his life in this soundtrack and you absolutely need to take a listen, even if you have never heard Smith it’s important that you do. The last song I want to talk about on the album is called “True Love.” It has to be the song that blew me away the most. The lyrics ‘I just need a safe place to bleed is this where it’s at?’ in which it seems he’s pleading for the world to leave him to revel in his vices, which in the end took him far too soon. His memory lives on in his heavy hearted musical genius. Take an hour to rip your heart out with the Heaven Adores You soundtrack by the late, great Elliott Smith.