It’s been thirteen long years since Elliott Smith took his own life on October 21st,e 2003. He battled demons a majority of his short life and his music brought so many people the harsh reality of that struggle into the words we could tangibly use to forget our own aches for a few moments, or for an entire album. In my opinion he is one of the most underrated geniuses in modern music.
A group of other musicians apparently felt the same way when they decided to get together and create a tribute album for Smith titled Say Yes! as released by American Laundromat Records. It features bands such as Yuck, Waxatachee and artists like J. Mascis and Julien Baker. A wide array of sludgy rock to intensely acoustic indie artists. I think my favorite from the album is the Yuck version of “Bled White“, which is also an all time favorite Elliott song of mine.
I’ve personally covered one Smith song during a live performance “The Biggest Lie”. While I enjoyed singing my heart out, Elliott’s songs are a force to be reckoned with. A tantrum of eloquence and equally as dark currents raging inside of a drowning man. It’s nearly impossible to recreate the feelings Smith captured in his music.
Honestly, I was pretty giddy at first and while I wholeheartedly appreciate these artists showing their influence by Smith, it was almost a little hard to hear the songs without Elliott. The fact that 13 years after I find him, he is no longer putting out new material is a heart wrenching realization for me. There just isn’t a way for other artists to recreate something so personal, and the despair he felt daily triggered the wild agony in his songs. These things made them what they are, and it is a travesty to deny that.
However, these songs are a tribute and we can not look into them as if Elliott is there, but more so that he was inspiration to them.
Songs you can find on this album include but are not limited to, “Waltz #2“ done by J. Mascis, “Easy way out” done by Wild Sun, and “Division Day“ done by Lou Barlow. Yuck’s upbeat version of “Bled White” got me pretty pumped up for the album as the first song I heard with its punchy drums and rock version of a song always adored. In J. Mascis’ version of Waltz #2, he seemingly chose specific parts of the song to use, and it’s very eerily pasted together with slow vocals and droning guitar and drums, at first I wasn’t even sure it was the same song.
We may have lost a very valuable and pivotal force in indie, acoustic and rock and roll music thirteen years ago, but his music transcends time and is not fleeting by any means of the word. Elliott had an unwavering ability to create classic music that would punch you in the gut every time you listen. There is no simplicity, paper thin vocals, shuttering harmonies, both clean and distorted guitar riffs in all the right places, so much Beatles influence you’ll be humming “The Two of Us” or “Helter Skelter” without even knowing why after checking out Figure 8 or From a Basement on a Hill.
Take a listen to this new tribute album, and if you haven’t yet listen to Elliott’s albums front to back in memory of 13 years without him in the physical realm, go and do that too. He’s always here in the musical realm, hats off to you Elliott Smith.