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Figure 8

( 3 )

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Steve Klinge
Although Elliott Smith made an early name for himself in the punk-hearted Heatmiser, his much-loved solo albums have been wispy and whispery affairs with infrequent doses of electricity. Even after he suffered a moment in the spotlight as a result of the Oscar-nominated "Miss Misery" from the Good Will Hunting soundtrack, Smith remained restrained for 1998's XO, his major-label debut; he toyed with Beatlesque production on "Baby Britain," but most of XO set his catchy and crafty melodies to acoustic guitars and solo piano. Not so for Figure 8. While still essentially a solo affair Smith plays almost all the instruments, with occasional help on bass from his old ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Steve Klinge
Although Elliott Smith made an early name for himself in the punk-hearted Heatmiser, his much-loved solo albums have been wispy and whispery affairs with infrequent doses of electricity. Even after he suffered a moment in the spotlight as a result of the Oscar-nominated "Miss Misery" from the Good Will Hunting soundtrack, Smith remained restrained for 1998's XO, his major-label debut; he toyed with Beatlesque production on "Baby Britain," but most of XO set his catchy and crafty melodies to acoustic guitars and solo piano. Not so for Figure 8. While still essentially a solo affair Smith plays almost all the instruments, with occasional help on bass from his old Heatmiser pal/current Quasi leader Sam Coomes and from ex-Attractions drummer Pete Thomas, Smith's fifth album often deploys elaborate, crescendo-ing productions and shifts in dynamics. "Everything Reminds Me of Her," "Pretty Mary K," and the finger-picked "Somebody That I Used to Know" hearken back to his subtle, spare acoustic style. But "Son of Sam" and "Junk Bond Trader" layer Tin Pan Alley piano, buzzing electric guitars, and drum crescendos with an unexpected vitality, while "LA," "In the Lost and Found Honky Bach," and "Wouldn't Mama Be Proud?" exude an almost happy tunefulness although "LA" has a suicidal streak, too. With its tension between stark, emotional acoustic introspection and piano-based dense-production numbers, Figure 8 is reminiscent of Rufus Wainwright's debut see the choral arrangement of "Everything Means Nothing to Me" or of John Lennon's Imagine hear "Stupidity Tries". Elliott Smith has always taken his songcraft seriously; now he's crafted his best album.
All Music Guide - Steve Huey
Judging only by his earlier, bare-bones indie-label albums, it seemed highly unlikely that Elliott Smith would turn into the ambitious arranger and studio craftsman of his lushly textured Dreamworks debut, XO. A big part of that shift, of course, was the fact that Smith had major-label finances and equipment to work with for the first time; this allowed him to fuse his melancholy, slightly punky folk with the rich sonics of pop artists like the Beatles and Beach Boys. Smith continues in that direction for the follow-up, Figure 8, an even more sonically detailed effort laden with orchestrations and inventive production touches. With a couple of exceptions, the sound of Smith's melancholy has largely shifted from edgy to sighingly graceful, although his lyrics are as dark as ever. Even if the subject matter stays in familiar territory, though, the backing tracks are another matter -- a gorgeous, sweeping kaleidoscope of layered instruments and sonic textures. Smith fleshes his songs out with assurance and imagination, and that newfound sense of mastery is ultimately the record's real emphasis; there's seemingly a subtle new wrinkle to the sound of every track, and yet it's all easily recognizable as trademark Smith. Even if it is a very impressive statement overall, Figure 8 isn't quite the masterpiece it wants to be -- there's something about the pacing that just makes the record feel long at over 52 minutes, it is the longest album in Smith's catalog, and it can sometimes float away from the listener's consciousness. Perhaps it's that Smith's songwriting does slip on occasion here, which means that those weaker tracks sink under the weight of arrangements they aren't equipped to support. Still, most of the songs do reveal their strengths with repeated plays, and it's worth the price of a few nondescript items to reap the rewards of the vast majority. Fans who miss the intimacy of his Kill Rock Stars records won't find much to rejoice about here, but overall, Figure 8 comes tantalizingly close to establishing Elliott Smith as the consummate pop craftsman he's bidding to become.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/11/2008
  • Label: Plain
  • UPC: 646315512717
  • Catalog Number: 127
  • Sales rank: 18,049

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Elliott Smith Primary Artist
Jon Brion Background Vocals
Pete Thomas Drums
Joey Waronker Drums
Suzie Katayama Conductor
Sam Coomes Bass
Technical Credits
Tom Rothrock Producer, Engineer
Rob Schnapf Producer, Engineer
Suzie Katayama Orchestration, String Arrangements
Elliott Smith Producer
Don C. Tyler Mastering
Autumn de Wilde Art Direction
Dale Smith Art Direction
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(2)

4 Star

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3 Star

(1)

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1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Refreshing

    I bought the CD after hearing some cuts on NPR, a review I believe. I had just rented a car in Raleigh NC on the way to the beach for a friend's wedding. Hey... a CD player! I just had to get that Smith CD for the long drive to the beach. I was quite impressed with the crisp sound, excellent guitar work, and sprinkles of non-traditional sounds. I was so taken with the CD that I kept stealing away during the festivities to listen to it by myself watching the ocean from my rental car. Uptempo rockers to soulful acoustics perfectly balanced. Do yourself a favor and buy this CD now. Skip to track 6, LA, then start from the beginning and enjoy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    finding yourself in a locked room, tears staining the notes

    Like most of the albums in my collection, it's something to listen to in the late hours when everything has been put away and we are left to consider the day before and the days ahead. The cover quite made an impression on myself, but it wasn't until I was at a station in a Barnes and Nobles in New Hampshire where I felt I absolutely had to get it. There are quite a few good bits about the album (My favorite track is 'Someone I Used To Know'), but songs like 'Easy Way Out' and 'Can't Make a Sound' make one wonder whether that time and the taste of success has made Mr. Smith a little too comfortable and given his work a shock of pretentiousness.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews