Monday, June 13, 2011

Best of the 90's: XO by Elliott Smith

XOBy 1997 Elliott Smith seemed to be at his peak.  He had just released his most critically acclaimed album and had a solid cult following and critical love.  For an indie folk rocker this was the top right.  Then he had a song breakthrough on the Good Will Hunting soundtrack and was nominated for an Academy Award and got signed to a major label. 

So Smith was looking at the big chore of following up his best album with his new big label album.  Part of Smith's appeal was his stripped down sound and so there was a lot of interest in how a big label would change Smith. 

Smith, obviously unphased, release his big label debut the very next year in 1998 and stunned everyone with what he came up with.  It's obvious that Smith had been recording in a lo-fi sound because that's all he had available.  The lush sound and complex productions on XO don't sound forced, they sound natural and bring his music to a level that he was never able to achieve before.  Heavily influenced by The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, XO, is a solid collection of Elliott Smith's thoughtful songs but now living behind solid pop production. 

If I were going to introduce anyone to Smith this is the album I would give them.  It's an easy introduction.  Sad to say Smith would be found murdered just five years and one album later.

Following the Rhapsody rating method I give it 3 out of 5 stars for Pretty Good.