Release Date: Oct 19, 2004
Record label: Anti
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Singer-Songwriter
On Sunday night, Noel Gallagher appeared on Channel 4, commenting on Nirvana's lyrics. It is difficult to recall exactly what he said. The idea that anyone with a working knowledge of either Oasis's back catalogue or the English language would ask Noel Gallagher to discuss lyrics brought on a state of shock, from which the viewer did not easily recover.
It's hard to dispute that Smith did not get to finalize the mixes, the track selection, or the sequencing -- he died, after all, with the album uncompleted -- but that's the nature of posthumous recordings: they're never quite what might have appeared had the artist lived. Critics, fans, and historians can have endless debates about whether this particular incarnation of the songs on From a Basement on the Hill would have been what would have been heard if Smith had finished the record, but that doesn't take away from the simple fact that the music here is strong enough to warrant a release, and that it offers a sense of resolution to his discography. While it's likely that From a Basement is cleaner than what Smith and McConnell intended, it is much sparer than Figure 8, and it feels at once more adventurous, confident, and warmer than its predecessor.
A basement on the hill is in a way the perfect metaphor for Elliott Smith's final album: it's the idea of being low in a high place, of the dark cloud looming within its anecdotal silver lining. To extend this interpretation to the rest of Smith's work would be an oversimplification, if only because his prior recordings more often chronicle being low in low places, but it certainly fits these fifteen songs which collectively bear the inescapable specter of his suicide late last year. He was drug-free when he started recording From A Basement On The Hill, according to all sources, stable and happy, comparatively free of the demons that line the darker corners of his earlier records.