Indie music can be busting at the seams with innovation and unique instrumentation. Sometimes it takes a guy and a guitar to realize the mastery that can still be applied to such a simple combination. Elliott Smith, a revered indie singer/songwriter was the embodiment of bittersweet.
In the mid nineties, when bands such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana were elevating the grunge scene to mainstream popularity, Elliott Smith released his debut, solo album Roman Candle. Somehow, over the roar of teen angst, a whisper thin voice accompanied by a guitar strummed and finger-picked with precision broke through. With the placement of some of his songs on the Good Will Hunting soundtrack and the Oscar nomination of “Miss Misery” he found an even wider audience.
While he played many instruments including the piano, bass guitar, clarinet, and drums, it was the acoustic guitar that he performed with most often. He skillfully crafted Pop melodies and his painfully delicate voice delivered lyrics that were filled with Smith’s inner demons and wishful longings. Unfortunately the demons followed Smith outside of the confines of his melodies and into his real life. Battles with addiction and depression haunted him and a controversial death took him from his fans too soon.
His career was cut painfully short, but his catalog of songs is a truly wonderful collection in which to lose oneself. He was one of the most tragically earnest figures of indie music and luckily his songs act as a permanent memorial of his talents.
If you like: Nick Drake, Iron & Wine, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello
Check out: Elliott Smith (start with Either/Or, progress to XO and graduate to From a Basement on a Hill and the rest of his catalog)
Feeling brave: Antony & the Johnsons, Bon Iver, Cat Power, M. Ward, Kurt Vile
AI level: Intermediate