Elliott Smith - Elliott Smith (1995), 7/10

Elliott Smith’s self-titled album offers a satisfying continuation of powerfully intimate songwriting after Roman Candle, now backed by professional production and thematic focus. The album starts strong with its most recognizable single “Needle in the Hay” offering a unique and very appropriately individual songwriting approach from Smith. While sometimes lacking due to an overly smooth approach to instrumentation and vocal delivery, Smith’s ability to create subversively affecting songs is almost inarguable. In contrast to his debut, however, some of these songs and their effectiveness dissipate over time because of their timely presentation paired with acoustic minimalism. Still, even songs that match this description such as “Single File” are undoubtedly excellent, both from a songwriting and aesthetics standpoint, they just have lost some of their luster in comparison to his more punchy and complex approach to composition. The pinnacle of this album’s sound, in my view, is “Satellite” that offers a delicate and beautifully presented guitar performance to match a fragile, vulnerable vocal delivery from Smith, both in lyricism and tone. Songs like “Coming Up Roses” and “Alphabet Town”, on the other hand, undercut this brilliance with frustrating homogeneity. Perhaps his songwriting magic was touch and go at the time, or this was a more likely a result of a creative slump after such a stacked, tight debut album that relieved him of his stockpile of existing songs. Not his best work, but among the stronger albums in his discography for its appropriately minimalist style and matching intimate delivery, and hosts some of Smith’s best compositions.