What is there to feel, listening to Elliott Smith now, other than sadness at the tragedy of a life cut short? From his early scratchy recordings, all the way through to XO and then Figure 8, Smith showed time and time again that he had a rare gift for melody and for melancholy. Even when, as on Son of Sam, he wasn’t singing about much in particular, and not about lost loves, lost opportunities, pain or suffering, it all still ends up infused with the sadness that comes out as silent accompaniment to his fragile vocal.
Although it might mark me out as coming from the casual end of the Smith fanclub (to make matters worse, the one time I saw him play live it was before I even knew much about him: looking back I do wish I’d made more effort to strain to hear him play through the din of an expect crowd of Belle & Sebastian fans during his support slot), Figure 8 wasn’t the first of his albums that I bought, but it is my favourite. From Son of Sam to Can’t Make a Sound, it’s a constant parade of the most wonderful songcraft.