Elliott Smith From a Basement on the Hill

Elliott Smith From a Basement on the Hill
From a Basement on the Hill wasn't the magnum opus that many fans had hoped for upon its original release on Anti- back in 2004. Planned at one point as a double-disc return to the public eye for Smith, it became instead a 15-track requiem for the songwriter after his death the previous October. None of the widely bootlegged rarities from this era are included on this remastered re-release from Kill Rock Stars, but the album remains a rare case where a posthumous release is as essential as the material available during the artist's lifetime. Opener "Coast to Coast" shows Smith really starting to use digital recording techniques and full band orchestration to their full potential, while "Pretty (Ugly Before)" and "A Fond Farewell" are about as classic Elliott Smith as you'll find. There remains some weaker tracks in the bunch ("Don't Go Down," "Strung Out Again") that make parts of the record feel impenetrable, and I still prefer the version of "A Distorted Reality is Now A Necessity to Be Free" that backed the "Pretty (Ugly Before)" single. Many of these tracks might have worked better in the two-disc form Smith had originally envisioned, buffered by stark acoustic numbers and noise tracks. But there's enough top-notch material to outweigh the middling numbers that, let's face it, are still better than what most bands influenced by Smith are putting out today. (Kill Rock Stars)