Release Date: May 8, 2007
Record label: Kill Rock Stars
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Before he died in 2003, Elliott Smith released five albums (plus the posthumous From a Basement on the Hill), but he had dozens and dozens of songs recorded, either alone on a four track or with friends in various studio settings, that had never seen the light of day. Kill Rock Stars -- the label for which he made arguably two of his best records, 1995's Elliott Smith and 1997's Either/Or -- with help from the late singer's archivist, Larry Crane, collected a handful of these pieces, added extensive and often personal liner notes, and made them available to the public under the title New Moon. Written and recorded between 1994 and 1997, the 24 tracks on New Moon showcase Smith at his most instinctive and natural, when he uses hardly more than his (double-tracked) voice and his guitar.
Writing in the liner notes to this double CD, Elliott Smith's friends touchingly emphasise how much fun he could be. But any wild notion that the previously unreleased session recordings collected here might be light of heart is quickly dashed. The albums Smith released before his probable suicide in 2003 had a bruised, fragile quality, and these sparse songs - dating from 1995-97, before he was nominated for an Oscar and signed to a major label - are no different.
Elliott Smith made albums through which common threads wove: loneliness, surrender, love, alienation, addiction. His vulnerability swirled rather than standing still, each measure touching the core. Unlike his first posthumously released album, 2004's From a Basement on the Hill, in which Smith had been neck deep until his untimely death the previous year, New Moon is a 2-CD collection of mostly unreleased tracks recorded 1994-1997, the years during which Smith was the most poetic, beautiful, and real.
Elliott Smith would be hard pressed to haunt us much more in death than he did in life. The creepily elegant ephemerality in his work, that whisper-thin undertow of doom, was always inseparable from his genius, even at his most opulent. So there is a spectral quality to New Moon, a two-disc collection of unreleased songs and rare b-sides from between 1994 and 1997, but it doesn't owe much to Smith's being dead for nearly four years now; it's more an effect of the brooding, skeletal medium he worked in, especially during those years between his desolate self-titled album and the needle-sharpened either/or.