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Figure 8

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Editors’ Notes

After hearing Elliott Smith's plaintive, stripped-down indie albums for years, Figure 8 came as somewhat of a shock to the singer-songwriter's legion of fans. Here was Smith, on a major label, still writing heartbreaking songs but cleanly produced and aided by a band that sounded steeped in the retro sounds of the Beatles and Zombies. A handful of tracks ("Somebody That I Used to Know," "Everything Reminds Me of Her," "Stupidity Tries") still sound like vintage Smith, while a few tracks seem to hint at a new chapter to his sonic world ("Wouldn't Mama Be Proud," "Can't Make a Sound"). Despite its diverse pop sounds, the songs are still as stunning and memorable as anything the late musician produced.

Customer Reviews

Figure 8? The Eternal Return? Yes.

This album is definitely a coda for Mr. Smith. Some may say the Beatles were whispering in his ear as he penned these songs, but I'd say it were angels. If you think the lyrics are depressing, you might be missing something. If you flinch at honest depictions of life, then please look somewhere else. This man had an amazing ear for harmony, a beautiful voice, and a great sense of rhythm. Many of the songs are autobiographical, and having grown up myself in the same city he did (Portland, Oregon) and seen him rise from his roots to become known nationwide I feel I must say that I have seen the bleakness he saw and watched many of the same sad people he describes. His gift was to lead you to the bottom of the valley so that you could begin the climb up the next mountain. A brilliant songsmith and writer. I highly recommend this album, and indeed all of his work. If you have heard Crackerbash, his first band, I also recommend them. Brilliant.

Desert Island Record

Figure 8 was my introduction to Elliott Smith. This is the Elliott Smith I know and love. Its sound ranges from loud, hard rock to soft, acoustic guitar, to breathtaking simplicity, to epic grandeur. Figure 8’s dominating impression is a multilayered kaleidoscope of soundscapes that welcomes the listener. The opening track, “Son of Sam,” is a classic hard-rocking Smith opener that is both melodic and gripping in its Beatlesque sounds. “Junk Bond Trader” is another track that illustrates Elliott Smith’s take on rock. The very engaging riff that reappears throughout the song is intriguing, as is the reverb laden guitar lick. The stunning “Everything Means Nothing To Me” hits you like a brick wall with its breathtaking simplicity and melodically pleasing piano as its lyrics paint you a picture of isolation. The middle of the album is a collection of beautifully crafted songs that vary from harpsichord to acoustic guitar to piano. This all leads up to the perfectly catchy “Happiness” and the very compelling “Pretty Mary K”. The acoustic “I Better Be Quiet Now” proves Smith to be a fine singer-songwriter that doesn’t just hide his songs behind instrumentation. It also takes you to a place that prepares you for the epic “Can’t Make A Sound”, in which Smith sings, “I have become a silent movie.” This is one of the emotional high points in the album, as it shows the extent to which Smith’s isolation had evolved, made all the more emotional by his violent suicide in 2003. The album closes very quaintly with “Bye”, a serene piano instrumental which sounds like the fantasies of tin soldiers at midnight. (I might also recommend buying the Japanese import figure 8, which includes two bonus songs: Smith's stirring cover of the Beatles' "Because" and the dreamy title track "Figure 8".)

Figure 8

This is a cd that you can listen to stright through all of the songs are great. Elliott Smith is the man all the way.


Born: August 6, 1969 in Omaha, NE

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

The celebrated folk-punk singer/songwriter Elliott Smith rose from indie obscurity to mainstream success in 1997 on the strength of "Miss Misery," his Academy Award-nominated song from the film Good Will Hunting. A native of Portland, OR, Smith began writing and recording his first songs at age 14, later becoming a fixture of the city's thriving music scene. As a member of the band Heatmiser, he debuted in 1993 with the LP Dead Air, issuing his first solo effort Roman Candle on the tiny Cavity Search...
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