New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
In celebration of what would have been Elliott Smith's 50th birthday today, UMe has released digital deluxe editions of his major label masterpieces XO and Figure 8, expanding the albums to include all the b-sides and assorted tracks that were released on the various singles, promos and international editions of the albums. Available now for streaming and download, the digital deluxe versions include several fan-favorite songs that have never been available digitally until now and represent everything Smith released during his time on DreamWorks Records.
Listen to XO: https://ElliottSmith.lnk.to/XODeluxe
Listen to Figure 8: https://ElliottSmith.lnk.to/Figure8Deluxe
XO has been expanded to include nine tracks recorded and released during the XO era and features a handful of excellent b-sides released on the UK singles for "Waltz #2" and "Baby Britain:" the instrumental "Our Thing," the rocker "How To Take A Fall," the brooding "The Enemy
Is You" and the full band version of "Some Song (Alternate Version)." It also includes a demo of "Waltz #1" and an early version of "Bottle Up and Explode!," as well as a remix of "Baby Britain" and a radio edit of "Waltz #2." It's rounded out with "Miss Misery," Smith's Oscar-nominated song from "Good Will Hunting" that was included as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of XO. Aside from "Waltz #1 (Demo)" and "Miss Misery," all songs are making their digital debuts on all streaming and download platforms.
The bonus tracks of Figure 8 include the titular, faithful cover of the "School House Rock" classic, written by Bob Dorough, that gave the album its name but was only released as a b-side on the UK "Son Of Sam" single along with the rollicking gem "A Living Will." Three songs from the rare French promo 3 Titres Inedits are included: the Beatlesy "I Can't Answer You Anymore," "Pretty Mary K (Alternate Version)" and "Happiness (Acoustic)." An acoustic version of "Son Of Sam" is also featured along with Smith's gorgeous cover of The Beatles' "Because," which was featured in the film "American Beauty" and on its soundtrack, and included on the Japanese edition of Figure 8. That track, along with "Son Of Sam" (Acoustic), are the only ones that were previously available digitally.
XO signified a major evolution for Smith and a critical turning point in his career, away from the lo-fi indie folk confessionals laid bare on his previous three albums and toward a more stereophonic, full band sound. XO was released August 25, 1998, just a few months after Smith was reluctantly thrust into the spotlight with a life-changing performance at the Academy Awards for his Oscar-nominated song, the "Good Will Hunting" closer, "Miss Misery." With the backing and resources of his new label DreamWorks Records and the help of producer team Rob Schnapf and Tom Rothrock, Smith embraced his opportunity to create a lush, ambitious, and beautifully complex album unlike anything he had done before. XO finds Smith coloring his introspective acoustic songs, still filled with understated melodies and barbed one-liners, with shades of rich, Beatlesque production, string-laden baroque pop and spirited rock.
While "Sweet Adeline" opens the album with Smith's hushed vocals and gentle fingerpicking, familiar of what fans had come to expect from him, the song takes a dramatic and unexpected turn halfway - as if switching from black and white to color - with an explosion of piano, drums, bass and Smith's soaring voice. It was a bold assertion that this was not going to be a quiet singer-songwriter record. Indeed, XO, which saw Smith playing most instruments, was his most expansive album to date, filled with exquisite arrangements, masterful pop songcraft, and a musically diverse collection of songs. Tracks like the aggressive "Amity" and horn-filled "A Question Mark" echoed Smith's former band Heatmiser's grungy indie rock and hinted at his punk roots while the jaunty "Baby Britain" displayed his knack for an indelible melody. Album centerpiece and first single, "Waltz #2," described by Stereogum as the apex of his career -- "ambitious, bold, intoxicating, and beautiful" -- included some of Smith's most biting lyricism and culminated with the unsettling squelch of bowed strings. Some of his finest guitar playing is evident on "Independence Day" and "Tomorrow Tomorrow." The album concludes with an emotional one-two punch to the gut: the rollicking kiss-off anthem, "Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands," followed by the haunting multi-tracked a capella, "I Didn't Understand," which proved that Smith could be equally powerful at his most bare.
Universally hailed upon release, XO topped best of lists in 1998 and continues to resonate, as powerfully moving as ever, more than 20 years later. The album is consistently included on greatest albums list and was featured on Spin's "Top 125 Albums of the Past 25 Years" and Pitchfork's "Top 100 Albums of the 1990s." Praising the album, Pitchfork wrote, "Elliott Smith used his DreamWorks debut, XO, as an opportunity to further focus the emotional power of his previous releases. Melancholy and grandiosity may seem mutually exclusive, but on XO, they're combined to wonderful effect, each crystalline guitar line and majestic piano arpeggio adding momentum and depth to Smith's gorgeous and impassioned vocals."
Following the breakout success of XO, Smith again teamed up with producers Rob Schnapf and Tom Rothrock for his Technicolor follow up, Figure 8, released April 18, 2000 on DreamWorks. The album was recorded throughout 1998-2000 at several studios including Sunset Sound and Capitol Studios in Los Angeles and Smith's musical temple, Abbey Road Studios in London, where he used the piano that The Beatles
used to record "Fool On The Hill." Unlike XO's major shift from the albums that came before it, Figure 8 continued Smith's penchant for ambitious arrangements but took them into even bigger, bolder and sometimes weirder territory.
Rolling Stone praised the album, saying, "Like its predecessor, Figure 8 is full of modern chamber pop, mixing in keyboards, strings and studio flourishes on melodically simple, yet structurally complex songs. 'Somebody That I Used to Know' and 'I Better Be Quiet Now' hearken back to the bare acoustic setting of Smith's first solo albums, while jangly opener 'Son of Sam' and the rainy-day rocker 'Junk Bond Trader' sound like long-lost radio singles." The AV Club enthused, "Figure 8 is even better, a strong collection of lush, densely arranged power-pop ('Son Of Sam,' 'Junk Bond Trader') and inimitably intimate ballads ('Somebody That I Used To Know,' 'Easy Way Out')," adding the album "never breaks from delivering Smith's songs with ornate elegance and a sublime mastery of pop hooks." Rolling Stone placed Figure 8 on their list of the 100 greatest albums of the decade and it was included in the book "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die."
Revisiting two of Elliott Smith's most accomplished albums on the occasion of his 50th birthday, XO and Figure 8's new digital deluxe editions allow for a deeper dive into his creative process with the addition of these rare tracks, serving as a reminder of Smith's remarkable talent and the incredible body of work he created in a life that was cut far too short at the age of 34 in 2003.
XO DIGITAL DELUXE TRACK LIST
1. Sweet Adeline
2. Tomorrow Tomorrow
3. Waltz #2 (XO)
4. Baby Britain
6. Independence Day
7. Bled White
8. Waltz #1
10. Oh Well, OK
11. Bottle Up And Explode!
12. A Question Mark
13. Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands
14. I Didn't Understand
15. Our Thing *
16. How To Take A Fall *
17. The Enemy
Is You *
18. Some Song (Alternate Version) *
19. Waltz #1 (Demo)
20. Bottle Up And Explode (Early Version) *
21. Baby Britain (Remix) *
22. Waltz #2 (Radio Edit)*
23. Miss Misery
*making digital debut
FIGURE 8 DELUXE TRACK LIST
1. Son Of Sam
2. Somebody That I Used To Know
3. Junk Bond Trader
Reminds Me Of Her
Means Nothing To Me
7. In The Lost And Found (Honky Bach)/The Roost
8. Stupidity Tries
9. Easy Way Out
10. Wouldn't Mama Be Proud
12. Happiness/The Gondola Bar
13. Pretty Mary Kay
14. Better Be Quiet Bar
15. Can't Make A Sound
17. Figure 8 *
18. A Living Will *
19. Son Of Sam (Acoustic)
20. I Can't Answer You Anymore *
21. Pretty Mary K (Alternate Version) *
22. Happiness (Acoustic) *
*making digital debut