CD: Elliott Smith, New Moon

(Domino, two CDs)

Writing in the liner notes to this double CD, Elliott Smith's friends touchingly emphasise how much fun he could be. But any wild notion that the previously unreleased session recordings collected here might be light of heart is quickly dashed. The albums Smith released before his probable suicide in 2003 had a bruised, fragile quality, and these sparse songs - dating from 1995-97, before he was nominated for an Oscar and signed to a major label - are no different. "I wonder what it is you're after," he muses on New Disaster, "keeping company with this disaster." To a degree, what Smith listeners are after is communion with a damaged soul, a wallow in exquisitely framed misery. So it's hard not to shiver at Smith's remonstrance with a friend threatening suicide in Georgia, Georgia. "Tell me what will make you happy," he offers, intimately enough to make you wish you could have asked the same of him.


Maddy Costa

The GuardianTramp

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