Elliott Smith’s album “XO” (1998) is a continuation of a string of prior albums that really reflected how talented this artist was and how versitile his songwriting could actually be; he would release two more albums “Figure 8” (2000) and a posthumous release “Basement on The Hill” (2004). Elliot Smith committed suicide in late 2003, it was a shock to the indie music world. “XO” offers at times a Dylanesque quality of soft melodies that feel more like a personal conversation rather than an overly produced, multi layered studio project. Unbeknownst to many, Elliott often played every instrument on his albums and hired musicians for his tours.
However, “XO” does offer moments of crisp and clean produced songs that allow this album to evolve from some of his prior work such as “Either/Or” (1997), self-titled “Elliott Smith” (1995) and “Roman Candle” (1994). These prior albums, with perhaps exception to “Either/Or”, are more basic in their sound and the songwriting, although significant in their own right and worth a listen for sure. What “XO ” provides is the transition and framework for his later releases that carry songs that are more structured and refined. What makes Elliott Smith albums so interesting is that even though he used the same formula for his sound, each album is progressive and experimental, never a dull moment. Also, Elliott Smith was in an indie rock band for years called “Heatmiser” that was relatively successful for a few years, his solo work sharply contrasts with his past efforts.
It’s sad that we do not have Elliott with us any longer, many of us are so curious about what other directions he could have taken his music. Luckily he did leave us with some wonderful music and a plethora of unreleased music now hitting the market.
“XO” is a must for any music lover and this album gets a 5 out of 5.