Had he not died, Elliott Smith would have turned 41 last Friday (Aug. 6). And in about two months, he’ll have been gone for seven years.
I’m not sure on how or why Kill Rock Stars arrived at this particular timing, but the indie will be releasing what could be Smith’s first “hits” compilation of sorts on Nov. 2. “An Introduction to…” is 14 previously released tracks from his seven albums: the five proper studio efforts (“Roman Candle,” “Elliott Smith,” “Either/Or,” “XO,” “Figure 8”), “From A Basement on the Hill” (finished posthumously) and KRS demo/rarities set “New Moon.”
It contains some well-loved Smith classics like “Between the Bars” and “Waltz. #2,” but is missing some other tracks that importantly introduced the rest of the world to Smith when he was still alive, namely the studio version of “Miss Misery” — which scored him an Academy Award nomination for its inclusion in “Good Will Hunting” — “Angeles,” “Independence,” his cover of the Beatles’ “Because” from the end-credits of “American Beauty,” his take on Big Star’s “Thirteen.”
It’s not that KRS couldn’t have dibs on songs that were in “Good Will Hunting” — considering “Between the Bars” made the cut — and I find it odd there’s only one “XO” song included. The omission of his covers may have been a purposeful effort to focus in on his songwriter in addition to royalty and copyright issues, though I think it would turn a light on his master interpretation skills. And perhaps I would have included more hard rockers, in an allusion to his work with Heatmiser (but, then again, they weren’t a KRS band).
Hits sets are tricky, in that they’re not meant to sate the diehards, but have a mission of their own. “[‘An Introduction to…] is intended as an introduction to one of the greatest songwriters of our era. We hope this will enable new generations to learn about Elliott’s music by providing a pathway for people to delve more deeply into his immensely satisfying catalog.” Fair enough. It rings in much in the same way that anniversary or deluxe reissues of acts like Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake, as reminders.
As previously reported, KRS released a previously unheard Elliott Smith song “Cecelia/Amanda” earlier this year, in conjunction with a re-release of “From a Basement on the Hill” and “Roman Candle.”
Below is the tracklist for “An Introduction to…” What would you have included on it?
1 Ballad of Big Nothing – from Either/Or
2. Waltz #2 – from XO
3. Pictures of Me – from Either/Or
4. The Biggest Lie – from Elliott Smith
5. Alameda – from Either/Or
6. Between The Bars – from Either/Or
7. Needle In The Hay – from Elliott Smith
8. Last Call – from Roman Candle
9. Angles – from Either/Or
10. Twilight – from From a Basement on the Hill
11.Pretty (Ugly Before) – from From a Basement on the Hill
12. Angel In the Snow – from New Moon
13. Miss Misery (early version) – from New Moon
14. Happiness (single version) – from Figure 8