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Elliott Smith - Roman Candle (Cover Artwork)

Elliott Smith

Elliott Smith: Roman CandleRoman Candle (1994)
Cavity Search Records

Reviewer Rating: 5
User Rating:


Contributed by: JeloneJelone
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You want sad, beautiful music, you throw on Elliott Smith. In death, his already aching compositions have taken on an added layer of legitimacy. Which makes his solo debut, Roman Candle, all the more striking. It originally wasn't even intended for release (which probably explains why almost half of.
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You want sad, beautiful music, you throw on Elliott Smith. In death, his already aching compositions have taken on an added layer of legitimacy. Which makes his solo debut, Roman Candle, all the more striking. It originally wasn't even intended for release (which probably explains why almost half of its tracks are called "No Name"), but as a demo collection that might garner Smith a 7" while he was still playing with his alternative band Heatmiser. Instead, it accidentally wound up as one of the best albums of the '90s.

At just nine tracks, Roman Candle is slight, but over the course of 30 minutes, it weaves a warm template. Were it not for the strength of his canon overall, I'd call this record the best starting point for new fans. But everything that endeared Smith to his fans-meloncholy vocals, melancholy lyrics, melancholy guitar-is on display here. While his later works would throw in window dressing, these four-track recordings cut to the core.

"Roman Candle" quietly opens the collection, as Smith declares "I'm a Roman candle / My head is full of flames." The loudest thing is the chord changes, which is either super distracting or so humanizing and earthly that you'll love it. That's not to say Smith doesn't get loud, as the more fully arranged "Last Call" attests. Smith uses all four tracks-two guitar parts, doubled vocals just like John Lennon, whom Smith had a love/hate relationship with artistically-and the whole thing is amazing. "Kiwi Maddog 20/20" gently closes out the album with a dreamy, country-ish instrumental, and it even uses actual drums.

While Smith would have higher profile releases like Elliott Smith (the one with the Royal Tenenbaums song) and Either/Or (the one with songs from Good Will Hunting, which also used "No Name #3"), Roman Candle holds up as a beautiful, delicate record, one that gets more rewarding with each listen.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
greg0rb (August 17, 2012)

I may be the only Smith fan on earth who prefers his self-titled over Either/Or, but I'd rank this (Roman Candle) maybe his third best album, though it's a toss up with XO. Very different albums, and it was great to see his growth over his too-short career. Every release is essential, with the only possible exception being the posthumous "From a Basement on a Hill."

Miss this man. Played him all day on his birthday several days back. Gonna grab my acoustic and play some "Needle In the Hay" now. Kindergarteners know that song, right?

AllAgesPete (August 17, 2012)

I feel this is his weakest album overall, even though there are some great tracks. Its what it needs to be, but the later albums are much better and fall into perfection territory.

eatbicycles (August 17, 2012)

But he also wasn't that great to begin with
He's no Alex Chilton

eatbicycles (August 17, 2012)

Koji is great. I never thought of him as somebody carrying on Elliot Smith, but it makes sense now.

Elliott Smith is one of those artist that unfortunately spawns a whole lot more douchebag imitators than inspires original artists.

EchosMyron (August 17, 2012)

Never understood all of the acclaim this guy received, even back when he was alive. "Son of Sam" is a great song though.

ollywood (August 17, 2012)

How often do artists make albums which you can listen to beginning to end? This is probably his strongest album in terms of consistancy. Great review, my second favorite Elliott smith album just behind either/or.

renaldo69 (August 17, 2012)

elliot is someone i miss a lot man. glad to see this review.
miss misery and angeles - 2 of the best songs i ever heard.
havent heard someone like this since...but the likes of into.it.over.it and koji do help to fill that gap

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