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The death of the singer/songwriter (someone for whom an acoustic gig was an everyday event, not some MTV-style special occasion) has been inevitable for some time, so releases like Figure 8 should be cherished. With no obvious singles, no clear fashion statement and nothing but a handful of melodies, a paper-thin voice and a piano or guitar for protection, it's clear that Elliott Smith is living on borrowed time. This is a shame, because--like Bernard Butler--Dallas, Texas born Elliott, after four solo albums, is only just finding his feet. Mixing peace loving folk ("Everything Reminds Me Of Her"), drugged up ramblings ("Everything Means Nothing To Me") and honky-tonk tales of serial killers ("Son Of Sam"), this makes for some pretty special listening. Figure 8, like his much acclaimed album XO before it, is a mess of beauty, ingenuity and slight insanity. If the days of the singer/songwriter are drawing to a close, this album is one hell of a way to remember them. --Dan Gennoe
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Top Customer Reviews
More than ever on Figure 8 Elliott is pouring out his heart and emotions, however they are more couched in beautiful pop melodies that would have made Lennon envious during his solo career.
Take a listen to Son Of Sam, Everything Reminds Me Of Her and In The Lost And Found and tell me this isn't a brilliant album. Considering all the sounds and textures that accompany the lyrics, it is justifiably comparable to Pet Sounds and deserves just as much respect (or more) than Elliott's earlier classics.
It's not that the album is bad, at all, but that it's not the Elliott that THEY want Elliott to be. They fell in love with the man behind either/or, or the self-titled, or (gasp) the barely audible Roman Candle. They swoon for the quietness, the starkness, the nakedness, bitterness, intimacy. They think "hi-fi" is a four-letter word, not to mention "production", and dare I even say it, "pop."
They were willing to accept XO as a temporary stray from the purity of their vision for his career. In their forgiving state of mind, the music was able to seep into their brains and they saw its brilliance. Hence, XO = good. And, surely Elliott will get back on track next time.
Figure 8 comes along and dashes their hopes. Their beloved tortured soulmate actually knows his way around modern expensive studio technology - AND HE LIKES IT!!! Traitor!
Man, I love E.S. and E/O as much as anyone. Love em. Love em love em love em. But I'm one of those who believe that Elliott broke through into an altogether new plane of genius with XO. And Figure 8 is absolutely a worthy continuation of the path he was on.
Put it this way - if I'm taking ten to the desert island, XO is in the bag for sure. Figure 8 will be really, really hard to leave out. The others, I'll miss a hell of a lot.
If you're wary of buying this album because of what you've heard about the "more produced sound", etc., get over it. More production is only a problem when it attempts to mask uninspired songwriting. Not the case here. On the contrary, access to a higher budget has allowed Elliott to open up his songwriting. The simple, beautiful structures are still there in full force, only now they have been fleshed-out and layered with lush instrumentation and harmonies. There's more creative inspiration in one song here than in most artists' entire repertoires. And while several songs stand out to me as masterpieces (Son of Sam, Stupidity Tries, Happiness, Can't Make a Sound), you really aren't tempted to just play the highlights, since the entire album is delicious.
I'm anxiously anticipating the release of Elliott's unfinished album. But in the meantime, "Figure 8" will do just fine. I haven't fallen this much in love with an album in at least 10 years.
Figure 8 is an excellent compliment to the other Elliot Smith song collections. If you are even a remote fan of his style, yet enjoy a bit more production than most of his acoustic songs, this is the record for you. The melodies remain strong. The balance between some electric guitars, drums, and hooks are a welcome addition to this talented songwriter's acoustic folk-like melodic, slightly pop-rock influenced style.
Elliott Smith, thank you for your music while you were with us. Rest in peace. - Dave B., Chicago.
This is not to say Smith has totally abandoned his roots. There are several quiet guitar songs on the album, and they prove themselves to be perfect counterpoints to the more instrumentally involved pieces. All the songs flow together harmoniously, sometimes with the help of short interludes--a technique that had been previously unknown to his music.
It is hard to list highlights on an album that is filled with them. "Somebody I Used to Know" resurrects McCartney and the Beatles and stirs into the concoction a bitter edge, resulting in a nose-thumbing of an ex (a common theme in Smith's songs, but unique every time). His guitar and expressive voice work in tandem in the exquisite "Everything Reminds Me of Her" and "I'd Better Be Quiet Now;" the songs, both mellow and pensive and stunning in their sincerity, are Smith at his best.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
A personal favorite by one of the best songwriters of his time. Elliott smith's most produced record with most tracks featuring a full band (guitars, drums, keyboards, strings... Read morePublished 24 months ago by ty
One of the best, and possible most recognizable albums Smith put out. The pattern on the cover has been redone so many times, in so many different places and mediums, that for... Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2011 by E
The title sums up what I think of 'Figure 8'... never in my lifetime will there be another Elliott Smith, perhaps not in anyone's lifetime. Read morePublished on Feb. 25 2007 by momo_adachi
Figure 8 is a soundscape of its own. Lushly and crisply produced, each song resonates in its own way. Read morePublished on May 20 2004
Elliot Smith is a pure musical genius. His music is as pure and honest as music can be. This album is one to be treasured. You will not be disappointed.Published on April 13 2004 by Loki
An impressive suite of perfect gestures, 15 remarkably meticulous and dazzling aerian ballets of 3 minutes each. 15 songs straight from heaven. Read morePublished on March 19 2004 by Pilouscope
Figure 8 is elliott's loudest, brightest CD, making heavy use of electric guitars, organs, and heavy drums. Read morePublished on Feb. 16 2004
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