New Moon Four years ago, Elliott Smith died at age 34 after battles with depression and substance abuse. The Portland-based singer-songwriter left behind a loyal fan base,… New Moon Four years ago, Elliott Smith died at age 34 after battles with depression and substance abuse. The Portland-based singer-songwriter left behind a loyal fan base,… 2007-05-07 Elliott Smith Indie Rock
Music Review

New Moon (2007)

FULL 'MOON' The late Smith lives on through a two-disc set of stunning tracks
Image credit: Phil Knott/Corbis Outline
FULL 'MOON' The late Smith lives on through a two-disc set of stunning tracks
EW's GRADE
A

Details Release Date: May 07, 2007; Lead Performance: Elliott Smith; Genre: Indie Rock

Four years ago, Elliott Smith died at age 34 after battles with depression and substance abuse. The Portland-based singer-songwriter left behind a loyal fan base, five beautifully bleak solo CDs, and a wealth of unreleased material. New Moon, his second posthumous album (following 2004's From a Basement on the Hill), collects 24 of those early recordings — and while archival compilations are often hit-or-miss, Moon's two cohesive CDs prove as emotionally powerful as anything in his catalog.

''Sometimes I feel like only a cold still life,'' Smith confesses in the elegiac opener ''Angel in the Snow,'' shrouding his whisper-soft vocals in spare acoustic chords. Two songs later, he's lashing out — ''I'm so sick and tired of trying to change your mind/When it's so easy to disconnect mine'' — on the surging ''High Times.'' The intensity of diverse performances like these, recorded between '94 and '97, would soon be rewarded. In 1998, his song from Good Will Hunting ''Miss Misery'' (included here in a lovely, hushed rough-draft form) scored him an Oscar nod, while a deal with DreamWorks Records later that year nudged him deeper into the mainstream, stoking his potential.

Ultimately, it's Smith's tragic fate that looms over Moon, lending a bittersweet tinge to its deceivingly simple, cathartic tunes. Still, those mourning his loss can take heart knowing that the troubled troubadour has left us with one more masterpiece. A

Originally posted May 22, 2007 Published in issue #936 Jun 01, 2007 Order article reprints