FROM A BASEMENT ON THE HILL - Elliott Smith

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16 years gone, 15 years since his last album, his best. I was encouraged by the "whose stock has improved/declined this decade?" thread, it seems like ES isn't fading away as much as I thought. Curious about ILM's thoughts on ES and this album, he never was particularly popular here. But to my mind, he never made a more cohesive, confident, and enormously moving statement. he never made a bad record, but they're all patchy, even Either/Or. not this one. except the Ostrich thing

Poll Results

OptionVotes
A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity to Be Free 4
Memory Lane 4
Twilight 3
A Fond Farewell 3
Pretty (Ugly Before) 3
Little One 3
Strung Out Again 1
King's Crossing 1
Shooting Star 0
The Last Hour 0
A Passing Feeling 0
Ostrich & Chirping 0
Don't Go Down 0
Let's Get Lost 0
Coast to Coast 0


flappy bird, Wednesday, 4 September 2019 21:58 (four years ago) link

just looking in the mirror will make you a brave man.

i clicked 'little one' instinctively but on second thoughts it might have to be 'memory lane'.

also i PM'd you, flappy

meaulnes, Wednesday, 4 September 2019 22:10 (four years ago) link

aand i may have forgot to include a return address but my email is thecryingnook at gmail.

meaulnes, Wednesday, 4 September 2019 22:11 (four years ago) link

tt showed this to me as her favourite album ever p much, and i agree it is amazing, but i don't think it gets any more amazing than the opening track (or don't go down, so i will have to make a choice)

imago, Wednesday, 4 September 2019 22:21 (four years ago) link

“memory lane”

american bradass (BradNelson), Wednesday, 4 September 2019 22:26 (four years ago) link

Great song... this live version from 1997 has a more resigned, wistful twist on the main melody that I prefer (despite the awful quality of this recording)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=742G71nUnnA

xp I'll check my email meaulnes!

flappy bird, Wednesday, 4 September 2019 22:31 (four years ago) link

my audio engineering ears sleuth that the above recording was never originally that bad sounding. most people would have it down as a low bit rate mp3, but it very much sounds as though it's been subject to some awful spectral noise-reduction process where the frequencies of the guitar and vocal have been extracted. it gives a kind of ghostly quality i guess, but i think i'd rather hear it under a bed of noise.

meaulnes, Wednesday, 4 September 2019 22:57 (four years ago) link

yeah it's a problem with a lot of ES bootlegs

flappy bird, Wednesday, 4 September 2019 23:03 (four years ago) link

one month passes...

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Thursday, 17 October 2019 00:01 (four years ago) link

little one

flappy bird, Thursday, 17 October 2019 00:04 (four years ago) link

I wish I was more familiar with this one.

billstevejim, Thursday, 17 October 2019 00:09 (four years ago) link

Don't Go Down tho

flappy bird, Thursday, 17 October 2019 00:10 (four years ago) link

Voted for 'A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity to Be Free' - but gotta say the 45 version (some different lyrics/mix) kicks the LP version's ass.

BlackIronPrison, Thursday, 17 October 2019 02:27 (four years ago) link

that one might actually be on the only dud on here, I never liked it... I've come around on Pretty Ugly Before (that 45 was the first ES I heard, those songs and Speed Trials made me wait almost a decade before trying again)

he verges into self parody sometimes, often on opening lines... "I'm floating in a black balloon" and "I have become a silent movie" ... "amity amity amity amity amity"

but then there's something brilliant like "everything is gone but the echo of the burst of a shell" or "the lite brite's now black and white"

flappy bird, Thursday, 17 October 2019 04:06 (four years ago) link

Voted for the (first) single.

Beware of Mr. Blecch, er...what? (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 17 October 2019 04:09 (four years ago) link

“Distorted”

Western® with Bacon Flavor, Thursday, 17 October 2019 06:39 (four years ago) link

Voting Pretty (Ugly Before) because it's such a perfect little tune, I love that Big Star-style riff he throws in, and it's a good mix of optimism and soul crushing self-loathing.

Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Thursday, 17 October 2019 11:37 (four years ago) link

Otm. Love that little piano lick on the chorus

Beware of Mr. Blecch, er...what? (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 17 October 2019 12:09 (four years ago) link

Voted for the closer. Devastating.

Le Bateau Ivre, Thursday, 17 October 2019 12:18 (four years ago) link

Voted for 'A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity to Be Free' - but gotta say the 45 version (some different lyrics/mix) kicks the LP version's ass.

same

“Hakuna Matata,” a nihilist philosophy (One Eye Open), Thursday, 17 October 2019 13:58 (four years ago) link

my favorite has always been "a fond farewell," but "memory lane" and "king's crossing" are close behind.

strong agree that the 7" version of "distorted" is superior.

petey v, Thursday, 17 October 2019 18:23 (four years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Friday, 18 October 2019 00:01 (four years ago) link

I don’t even remember voting in this poll but I probably voted for Twilight.

sctttnnnt (pgwp), Friday, 18 October 2019 16:18 (four years ago) link

as long as we're talking ES + as long as i mentioned "king's crossing," this live version is the definitive one for me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiBTykpkT9E

so good

petey v, Friday, 18 October 2019 19:26 (four years ago) link

and nearly 4 years later, another incredible performance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3D7vRObaTyo

all other live versions of King's Crossing I've heard are really shaky performance wise

flappy bird, Friday, 18 October 2019 19:40 (four years ago) link

four years pass...

this is completely inarguably the greatest bunch of songs to receive 0 votes in an ilm albums poll ever

imago, Wednesday, 3 July 2024 21:43 (one week ago) link

...except "Ostrich and Chirping"?

There's a vivid, irremediable negativity about his songs that isn't ameliorated by their beauty, which I guess only means I can't listen to them very often. It's very strange to me that I don't remember whether I first heard him before he died or not, which could of course reinforce those impressions.

Scott Miller's commentary on "Let's Get Lost" is painful to read:

Tragically, this tender and transporting admission of dysfunctionality is probably truer to life than a spiritual breakthrough like "Say Yes". "Let's Get Lost" is in fact so lovely a selling of the impulse toward isolation that after the song is over, you better understand the temptation to step into that world, as an inoculation against doing it for real.

Halfway there but for you, Thursday, 4 July 2024 18:17 (one week ago) link

He'd know :(

imago, Thursday, 4 July 2024 18:21 (one week ago) link

Miller sustained himself with whimsy and play, of course. Smith? There's all sorts of twists and curveballs and incredible developments, but absolutely no wackiness at all. Two different ways of moulding great songs from the darkness

imago, Thursday, 4 July 2024 18:24 (one week ago) link

Have you got any links to Miller on Smith btw?

imago, Thursday, 4 July 2024 18:27 (one week ago) link

Also, I viscerally felt that negativity myself - 'like a hand closing around your throat' - and kept my distance, until last week when it all suddenly clicked at once. Pushing beyond (the still very good!) Either/Or into the more maximalist later stuff is what made it click fully

imago, Thursday, 4 July 2024 18:28 (one week ago) link

Have you got any links to Miller on Smith btw?

I typed that out from his book. The only other Elliott Smith entry is for "Rose Parade" as the best song of 1997:

An apparently unusually sensitive soul, Elliott Smith had his share of emotional difficulties, but he was also unquestionably one of a tiny minority of lyricists who were not just serving sung verse - which is really the highest calling songwriters ought to be expected to hear - but were genuinely onto something. Rather, it was the music that seemed to serve Elliott's communication, which is a rare impression to achieve. The specific coup here is those three little descending guitar notes, as on "watch the parade", which seems perfect tone poetry for the "yes, but" sentiment of the lyrics. There's nothing wrong with the Rose Parade per se, "It's just that everyone's interest is stronger than mine". But the weak interest is in the spirit of the crowd that displaces one's humanity. Elliott wants you to follow him down to the parade to learn how not to get caught up in parades, because you won't know at the time if they're a Nuremberg rally as we recognize those today or something wonderful and invigorating, just as those participants didn't know.

Halfway there but for you, Thursday, 4 July 2024 21:52 (one week ago) link

:) thank you

imago, Thursday, 4 July 2024 23:05 (one week ago) link

and that's stunning analysis

imago, Thursday, 4 July 2024 23:05 (one week ago) link

is the 45 version of Distorted Reality the like low fi, keyboard-y one? I wouldn't go as far as preferring that, but that song always seemed out of place to me on the album, entirely. I think it's a phenomenal recording though, sounds so nice. white album to a tee

encino morricone (majorairbro), Friday, 5 July 2024 09:53 (one week ago) link


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