Elliott Smith - Figure 8 (Vinyl)

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Figure 8 is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, and the final studio album released during his lifetime. It was recorded from 1998 to 2000 at numerous studios and released on April 18, 2000, through DreamWorks Records. Preceded by the singles "Happiness" and "Son of Sam", Figure 8 was Smith's second release on a major label.

Figure 8 was recorded at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, Sonora Studios in Los Angeles, Capitol Studios in Hollywood and Abbey Road Studios in London. Initially titled Place Pigalle, after the square in Paris, the title is thought to be taken from a song by Schoolhouse Rock! Smith covered this song, but it did not make the final track listing. Regarding the album's title, Smith said in a May 11, 2000, article in Boston Herald:

I liked the idea of a self-contained, endless pursuit of perfection. But I have a problem with perfection. I don't think perfection is very artful. But there's something I liked about the image of a skater going in this endless twisted circle that doesn't have any real endpoint. So the object is not to stop or arrive anywhere; it's just to make this thing as beautiful as they can.

Smith described the songs on the album as "more fragmented and dreamlike". The lyrics contain references to serial killer David Berkowitz, the Hindu deity Shiva, actor Bruno Schleinstein, the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland, and the comic book character Sgt. Rock. In interviews Smith asserted that his reference to Berkowitz was intended to be dreamlike or impressionistic. A fan of filmmaker Werner Herzog and Schleinstein, Smith said in an interview with Revolver "How come we have no Bruno S. [in America]? How come he can be a film star in Europe, but over here everybody has to look like they were computer generated?"

The wall Smith stands in front of in Autumn de Wilde's photograph on the cover of the album exists in Los Angeles, and since his death it has become a memorial to him. It is located at 4334 W. Sunset Boulevard, which is a store by the name of Solutions Audio-Video Repair, just east of the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Fountain Avenue. It has at some stages been covered with written messages containing lyrics and personal messages to Smith, as well as displaying a stencil of Smith to mimic the photo on the album cover. It is regularly graffiti-ed over, followed by regular restorations from fans. In 2017, the wall was partially destroyed in the opening of a shop located inside the building the wall is a part of. Despite this, the area found on the album cover is still largely intact.


Best album of his career. You can see it: every album, a different step. Roman Candle coasts on pure seethe, a hushed back-room catharsis. Elliott Smith found him injecting strains of pop/rock songcraft (the guitar break in "Coming Up Roses," more ambitious harmonies - or at least ambitiously stacked duplicate Elliotts, his increasing reliance on his upper register). He got positively bouncy on Either/Or, moving away from the hypnotic turnarounds in favor of ever-maturing, ever-ambitious strumcraft.

XO is the quantum leap, bathing a lyrical sensibility that might've threatened to get tired in masterful arrangements. Here's where the modern Elliott sound solidifies: those cloudy backing vocals that loft and merge with the main lines, judiciously-deployed bits of string sections, songs that spike in intensity, and a sense for shutting up and letting the instrumental break seethe for you. His subject matter was branching slightly, as well: Smith began with songs so personal that he didn't dare name them; by XO he'd written two indelible love songs ("Say Yes" and "Independence Day," both dizzyingly skilled balances of sentiment and wistfulness (and dread, in the case of the latter).

Then Figure 8. While the diversity of approaches in XO had been toned down some, Smith (with the invaluable help of producers Rob Schnapf and Tom Rothrock) finally made the leap to songwriter's songwriter. Some of his familiar imagery pokes through: the army, medicine, though not addiction, interestingly. Heroin had not taken hold yet.

Just reciting these lines is kind of banal - as usual, songs minus music = pale pretension. But still, there's something in the way he sang his phrases that translates. "Something’s happening, don’t speak too soon/I told the boss off and made my move/Got nowhere to go/Son of Sam, son of the shining path, the clouded mind/The couple killer each and every time" is a neat little depiction of a mind on its own track; paired with a tinkling honky-tonk piano and a close-mic'd snare.

See, he needed this kind of production. His ragged voice had to be cloaked in a warm, West Coast sound: reverb and swell. "Color Bars" is my favorite track these days, a wind-up contraption kicking off with the familiar acoustic strum, taking wing on a simple, ringing piano melody. "I see color bars/When I come," Smith sings, summoning the old anger, "The sergeant rock broke the key off in the lock/To where i come from." "Can't Make a Sound" has a first section straight out of Either/Or: Smith and his guitar sing about silent movies, but it's the denouement - a tumultuous assault of crash cymbals, overloaded guitar, and full orchestra - that's remarkable. "Why should you want any other," muse a multitude of Elliotts over a stringed lament, "when you're a world within a world?"

There are a couple half-developed ideas, like the tone-poem "Everything Means Nothing to Me," and the throwback "Pretty Mary K," but it doesn't matter, not with the little-boy-lost 50's-r'n'r-cum-French-horn of "Stupidity Tries". Not with the bleary-eyed rocker "LA," grateful for chances nearly lost: "Living in the day/But last night I was about to throw it all away."

Despite my blather, I really do feel this record speaks for itself. Figure 8 is a man of full faculty, and tune after tune fulfills the promise of the Zombies' fading sunshine.

By: SilentMike.

1. "Son of Sam" 3:04
2. "Somebody That I Used to Know" 2:09
3. "Junk Bond Trader" 3:49
4. "Everything Reminds Me of Her" 2:37
5. "Everything Means Nothing to Me" 2:24
6. "L.A." 3:14
7. "In the Lost and Found (Honky Bach)"/"The Roost" 4:32
8. "Stupidity Tries" 4:23
9. "Easy Way Out" 2:44
10. "Wouldn't Mama Be Proud?" 3:25
11. "Color Bars" 2:19
12. "Happiness"/"The Gondola Man" 5:04
13. "Pretty Mary K" 2:36
14. "I Better Be Quiet Now" 3:35
15. "Can't Make a Sound" 4:18
16. "Bye" 1:53


On back:
[Geffen logo] [Universal logo]
℗2008 ©2017 Geffen Records. [...]
Made in EU. [...]

On labels:
[Geffen logo]
℗ 2008 © 2017 Geffen Records.

On insert:
recorded and mixed [...]
at abbey road, capitol, sunset sound, and sonora studios
[...] assistant engineers:
at sunset sound: geoff walcha, monique mizrahi
at sonora: richard baron
at capitol: dann thompson, steve genewick, charlie
paakkari, jimmy hoyson
at abbey road: paul hicks

[...] management: margaret mittleman for M3

Lyrics Reprinted by Permission.
©2017 Geffen Reords.

Pressing plant uncredited, derived from runout etchings.

Comes with insert and download coupon.