Old Favorite Thing: Vol. 1, No. 1: "Pictures of Me," Elliott Smith
A few nights ago I broke out Elliott Smith's "Either/Or" for the first time in a long while. Back in the day I was a very, very devoted Elliott Smith fan. He's one of only three performers I've traveled out of state on multiple occasions to see, for those keeping score at home. I received so many condolence e-mails the day of his suicide that you'd think he was a family member. The main reason I don't revisit his albums too frequently is that I so completely and fully digested them a few years ago that I figured there wasn't much to be gained by listening to them anymore. I was wrong, at least when it came to one song.
"Pictures of Me," the fifth track on "Either/Or," simply floored when I heard it for the first time in a few years. It captures all the elements and contradictions that made Smith such a singular talent. Like many of his songs the lyrical content is bleak, bitter and depressing. "Here comes another guy / Jailer who sells personal hells / Who'd like to see me down on my [expletive] knees / Everybody's dying just to get the disease," he sings. But the music is downright cheery. It's a pop song, plain and simple -- bouncy, deliriously and with consistent momentum. It's the kind of song Spoon would perfect on last year's "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga," except here we've got Smith's beautiful, pitch-perfect vocals and self-harmonies. I never made it to the end of the album because I had to keep listening to this song over and over again. The video below isn't an actual video, just a montage of photos set to music, but just listen to it and tell me that's not as good as a pop song gets.
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