Four more blocks, plus the one in my brain.
February 13, 2010 3:47 AM   Subscribe

Fifty-one Elliott Smith cover songs.
posted by holdkris99 (31 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
Elliot Smith was murdered.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:25 AM on February 13, 2010

dude changed my perception of popular music. Not having been able to see him perform is probably the biggest regret in my life.

thanks for this holdkris
posted by valdesm at 4:29 AM on February 13, 2010

Damn it.

I went to the site hoping to find Tegan and Sara doing Fond Farewell or something like that, but... this is good, too. Don't get me wrong. I was just... The wording, and...

Damn it.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 4:39 AM on February 13, 2010

I (like Bathtub Bobsled) clicked thinking it was a collection of covers of Elliott Smith songs, while being simultaneously incredulous that they found 51 good covers of his songs.

So far, I've found one that I really love, so I'll just, you know, leave this here (Youtube link).

As for these links, I know what I'll be listening to while I write for the next little bit. Thanks.
posted by dnesan at 5:50 AM on February 13, 2010

Elliott Smith always left me cold but anybody who covers "Do It Again" is square with me, so thanks for this!
posted by escabeche at 6:08 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

From the article

It is, in large part, the reason I moved from the old blogspot page to this shiny new space — its unexpected Google deletion.

I guess we can expect to see more of this as time progresses. Not knowing the details, I have no opinion, but it was interesting to note.
posted by Sparx at 6:31 AM on February 13, 2010

So far, I've found one that I really love
Too much double-tracking the voice. Yeah, I know Elliott did it, but this seems over-cooked. But he does have a nice voice.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 6:32 AM on February 13, 2010

Not knowing the details
Google went all nuke-from-orbit on a whole mess of music blogs hosted on blogspot.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 6:34 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

"51 Elliott Smith covers" --> I was expecting 51 covers of Elliott Smith. This is 51 covers by Elliott Smith.

And I find that much more interesting than what I was expecting. This is great. Thanks.

It's nice to hear him play the guitar solo in "Something" almost note-for-note the way George Harrison played it. It's also notable how appropriate this is, even though it would normally be looked down on for a guitarist to publicly mimic another guitarist's solo. It's the rare rock guitarist who'll play a guitar solo that isn't a replaceable opportunity to show off but rather an essential part of a great composition. This is why George Harrison regularly appears on lists of "the greatest guitarists of all time" even though his technical skills were not enviable.

The fact that these covers also include the quietly beautiful "Isn't It A Pity" and "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)" also makes clear his deep respect for Harrison.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:58 AM on February 13, 2010

Google went all nuke-from-orbit on a whole mess of music blogs hosted on blogspot.

OK - I did know that detail, but the reasons for them deleting this particular blog are unknown to me. I am also aware that many of the blogs they deleted may have been perfectly legit in their use of music, which does suck, but in this case I don't know the particulars, so it behooves me not to comment. I guess.
posted by Sparx at 7:10 AM on February 13, 2010

I was just... The wording, and...

Yeah, same here. Hearing him do covers works for me too, but it's not quite the same sort of exciting for some reason. (And I was all "hey, here's eight more!", but I guess it's just "here's eight!" instead.)

I'd love to see a roundup of covers of his music, not just out of generic fandom but because he's one of those songwriters who lays down a really solid, fertile structure in his work that someone else can take an go in a lot of different directions with—what makes his stuff good isn't just some superficial collection of the details of how his recording came together, if that makes sense. The songs are really solid in a way that doesn't fall apart if you take away some specific gimmicky sound.

The thing with Elliott Smith for me is that when I started listening to his albums (this was maybe 2003 and 2004, I managed to grow up in Portland as a musician without ever knowing who the fuck he was which tells you something about how inattentive to music I manage to be most of the time), it switched something on in my head as a home recordist.

Somehow listening to Elliott's stuff and learning what a meticulous goddam solo artist he was, it became clear to me how much you could really get out of DIY one-man-band overdubbed work. That whole approach became more real to me, with his stuff that had his hands over basically every little bit, than it had been listening to albums by what I saw as bands full of different people each playing their own part.

Which is me trying to make explicit what was more of a slow adjustment in my thinking and attitude toward recording based on that late and informal introduction to the guy's work. But it was definitely a pretty key development in what I was listening to and what I was taking from it and what I thought about when I sat down to record something. It helped develop in me not just a vague aspiration but a fairly strong belief that if I want to and if I work at it, I can really do the whole recording-myself-as-a-band thing on my own and carefully and well.
posted by cortex at 7:18 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is fantastic. Thank you.
posted by applemeat at 7:24 AM on February 13, 2010

I miss Elliot Smith.
posted by MarshallPoe at 7:40 AM on February 13, 2010

Elliot Smith was murdered.

The coronoer's report said some things should be looked into. No one was charged. It was a long time ago. Let Elliot Smith be. I miss him too. Thanks for the post holdkris99.
posted by jessamyn at 7:49 AM on February 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh my! That rocking Yer Blues is downright butch.
posted by applemeat at 8:09 AM on February 13, 2010

For those looking for covers of Elliott Smith songs, there's the albums, A Tribute to Elliott Smith, and To: Elliott From: Portland.
posted by emilyd22222 at 8:42 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I heard most of these already at Sweet Adeline but was glad to see the link anyway. His cover of Don't Fear the Reaper is amazing.
posted by princelyfox at 8:55 AM on February 13, 2010

I really, really feel like I'm missing something with Elliot Smith. To me, it just sounds like mopey crap to kill yourself by (that's just my opinion, forgive me for being blunt), but a lot of people I respect musically and that like things I do say he's a genius. I don't see what I'm missing, and I don't suppose anyone can tell me since things like that aren't exactly quantifiable. I feel it's been long enough since he died that I can say this without anyone attacking me, no?
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:01 AM on February 13, 2010

His style is pretty understated, DecemberBoy; if it doesn't grab you, I can totally see the "mopey crap" reading and given that everybody's taste is different I don't think that's anything particularly weird.

What works for me is that (a) his lyrics are really solid constructed and really personal and have a lot of sense of being in a place in time in a lot of cases and (b) there's loads of care and nuance in his recordings. He's got a mild-seeming voice and doesn't usually do anything big and loud and showy with it, so it's kind of easy to dismiss it as mopey whatever, but a careful listen reveals a whole lot of nuance in there that's part of what I think makes people identify with his music once they get into it.

That he's both a Portland songwriter (not just in terms of location but in the sense that there is a ton of personal Portland-oriented stuff in some of his writing) and a recordists' recordist makes him doubly compelling to me, but for someone to whom neither of those things really matter he may seem a lot less interesting. I dunno.
posted by cortex at 9:14 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I really liked the Supersonic cover.
posted by Corduroy at 10:41 AM on February 13, 2010

Hmm, Elliot Smith's cover of "Jealous Guy" is a lot less creepy than John Lennon's version. Plus ES does the whistling, which is endearing.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:57 AM on February 13, 2010

Built to Spill's "Car" is one of my favorite songs, and Elliot Smith is one of my favorite musicians... but this isn't a good combination, or at least not a good version.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:09 AM on February 13, 2010

over at the sweetaddy forums some fans did a couple tribute cds while the man was still alive, i think he even got to listen to them.then after he died another fan tribute was "released". i played big decision on this one, and needle in the hay on one of the others. They're still around in some places, i think.

I like the covers on this amateur recordings much better than the profesional tributes that were released. People did love him through his music.
posted by valdesm at 11:25 AM on February 13, 2010

His Big Star covers are all excellent, particularly "Nighttime." I write this as a huge Big Star fan and a great admirer of 'Waltz #2" by Smith. In fact, its the only song he recorded that I know.

Also, his "Don't Fear The Reaper" compares favorably to Wilco's cover of the song, which is to say both sound surprisingly like the original. Covering that song is a dream of mine. Heh.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:49 AM on February 13, 2010

DecemberBoy: it just sounds like mopey crap

To me the truth is otherwise. My favorite album of his is Figure 8 and a lot of that's joyous to me. Stupidity Tries is one of these songs that always lifts my mood.
posted by Kattullus at 12:29 PM on February 13, 2010

decemberBoy: what cortex said a million times.

the man was a talented songwriter with a wide musical range. If he was a genius, it could be in the way he crafted songs to set a specific mood and tell a story in a very movie-like way. the first recordings are more straightforward in this sense; later recordings are about more abstract stories, but this notion is there on his entire body of work, me thinks.
posted by valdesm at 1:23 PM on February 13, 2010

December Boy:

I recall not getting into him when there was an hour devoted to him on the cbc once. Nothing clicked. Then one day I was in the local video store and heard something (I don't know which song), which knocked me over the head. I asked what it was, and was told it was E.S. (from the New Moon cd). A little while later I grabbed that, put it along with the rest of the canon on my mp3 player, and listened nothing else. For an hour a day. For three years.

I appreciate Cortex's remarks in his first comment about the production. The covers of "Because" by the Beatles and "Figure 8" from Alphabet Rock (!) are great places to start. I could listen to either of those three times in a row any time (the mp3 player was a factor here, because earbuds reproduce the subtlety so well). He can rock out completely as well.

When it comes to his own songs, writing is so unified in each song, and consistent with the life he lived. There is no filler. There is much cleverness and humour in the songs, but it always serves the purpose of the song. The techniques in the writing that kill me include playing with time, like when he sings "there's nothing wrong...", it's like "oh good, everything's ok", and then the idea continues into the next line "that wasn't wrong before". The whole of the song Condor Avenue, which he started to write at the age of 17, is filled with examples of his brilliance as a wordsmith, one of which I will reproduce:

she took the oldsmobile out past condor avenue
the fairground's lit
a drunk man sits by the gate she's driving through
got his hat tipped bottle back in between his teeth
looks like he's buried in the sand at the beach

Obviously, I could go on for days. Better stop before it goes too far.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 3:26 PM on February 13, 2010

December Boy's comment is exactly how I felt (and still feel) about Morrissey and The Smiths. And I love Elliott Smith, and plenty of other "mopey" music, so I guess it all comes down to personal tastes.
Anyway...thanks for this post. Between this and the Decemberists covers I have my listening schedule booked for a while.
posted by rocket88 at 4:23 PM on February 13, 2010

I find it ironic a guy who named himself after a Big Star song doesn't get Elliott Smith.

Other than what cortex said ('walk down Alameda shuffling your deck of trick cards' runs through my head when I'm on or go by the street), the covers linked here are a good representation of Smith's oeuvre. His songs were extensions of The Kinks, The Beach Boys, Big Star, and The Beatles. He dealt in guitar pop, sometimes orchestral and always melodic.

I didn't like him much either in the late 90s, but I didn't like much of anything new that was coming out then (unless it was a band I already knew and loved, like The Flaming Lips). It took me a few years until I realized that his songs are essential links to songwriting classicism and he did it in a way that not many others can.
posted by sleepy pete at 11:48 PM on February 13, 2010

There is so much joy in his music. So much. It's not just sadbastard music.
posted by betweenthebars at 2:37 AM on February 14, 2010

If you're having trouble getting into Elliot Smith, try his first EP Roman Candle. To my taste, it's more rhythmic (though purely acoustic) and less hazy than his later work, and the lyrics are more clear.
posted by msalt at 11:01 AM on February 14, 2010

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