Figure 8

SAY YES! AN ELLIOTT SMITH TRIBUTE
October 25, 2016 9:49 am

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.

 

In The Ambient Abyss With Mariage Blanc
September 27, 2015 11:39 pm

The first day of fall was the perfect day to put the album No Autobiography by Mariage Blanc on repeat.  The band, from Pittsburgh, P.A. (who is now split between Pennsylvania and Sacramento, California) is the perfect soundtrack for a long drive on a slow Sunday afternoon.

While listening to their song “Silent Nations” I can feel the melancholy overtones pulling me into an abyss of sadness.  The vocals have the similarity of singer-song writer Elliott Smith’s paper thin vocals and guitar picking, with a little more calm in the deliverance reminiscent of Indie pop band Silversun pickups vocal style.

 

It’s no wonder Craig Ismaili included the album in his top 10 for 2015.  The band’s main attributes seem to be nostalgia and melancholy in the rawest form.  Recorded at Tree Lady Studios, the ambient white noise in the background of the track “Nowhere Town” to the finger picking and sliding sounds of the acoustic guitars in “Stay With Me” ultimately reminds me of a Figure 8 (Elliott Smith) and Bon Iver self titled love child.

Eventually when you’re able to pay attention to the lyrics, they melt your heart as well.  Mariage Blanc is easy to listen to and to fall in love with. They feel like a reincarnation of Simon and Garfunkel’s clever and perfectly placed chorus and lyrics that draw you in on the first listen. Who could even renounce the pain felt when you heard “did your heart break down in June?”  I can tell you that it tore straight through my soul and I can only imagine the energy they put into their live show, so if they decide to come to your town, you best be there. You know the beasts will!