Release Date: Feb 5, 2016
Record label: Universal
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Soundtracks, Stage & Screen, Sadcore
Though the Elliott Smith documentary Heaven Adores You was released last year, the accompanying soundtrack is only just now coming out. Unlike the soundtrack released in conjunction with the Kurt Cobain doc Montage of Heck, where you really needed to see the film in order to place the rough recordings in context, the Heaven Adores You soundtrack is less random and scattershot, more readily accessible as a standalone release. Heaven Adores You is Smith’s third posthumous record.
Years before he moved to Portland and adopted the name "Elliott," Steven Paul Smith was a sunny and unassuming kid growing up in the Dallas suburbs, living a surprisingly all-American existence. He played football; his family went to church occasionally. He played clarinet in middle-school band and was elected Byrd Symphonic Band president in 1982; he cracked up his friends with goofy impressions.
When director Nickolas Rossi filmed the interviews behind Heaven Adores You, it was clear he had one thing on his mind: dismantling the single-sided image of Elliott Smith. The sad, soft-spoken, brooding singer-songwriter was given justice on screen as Jon Brion, Larry Crane, Slim Moon, and more gave open interviews about working with Smith. His childhood demos and Heatmiser days were clearly saturated in just as much happiness as they were pain.
Although the Elliott Smith documentary Heaven Adores You appeared in theaters a year prior to Cobain: Montage of Heck, it's difficult not to compare its 2016 soundtrack to the 2015 album that accompanied the doc of the departed Nirvana leader. Like Montage of Heck, Heaven Adores You is largely constructed from outtakes, demos, and unfinished songs -- the rough drafts an artist leaves behind when he dies -- but where the Kurt Cobain enterprise seemed ghoulish due to its reliance on audio collages never meant for public release, the untitled scraps, formless instrumentals, and working versions that populate Heaven Adores You are each the genesis of a potential song; they're something ultimately intended for an audience of more than one. If the individual components occasionally drift or sit still, the overall construction of the soundtrack has momentum, warmly wandering from a 14-year-old tentatively plucking away on his acoustic guitar to a singer/songwriter who never quite seems as confident in his art as perhaps he should.
For an artist who inspired as intense devotion, and was as prolific, as Elliott Smith, it comes as some surprise that the Portland singer-songwriter's archive – chock-full of unreleased songs, fascinating demos and illuminating alternate takes – hasn't been excavated more thoroughly over the years. Arriving nearly a decade after the posthumous compilation New Moon, Heaven Adores You is a much welcome addition to the Smith oeuvre. It's the soundtrack to a 2015 documentary about Smith, collecting 20 live TV appearances, unfinished songs, unaltered album tracks and instrumental sketches.