Elliott Smith: 'Alternate Versions From Either/Or'

We grant a certain leeway to those who feel the absence of a departed musician so intensely that any scrap of listenable material he or she left behind becomes cause for, if not celebration, well-deserved remembrance. Tupac, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Nick Drake, Selena. Such leeway is unneeded, however, to drink up the most recent posthumous Elliott Smith record. These alternate versions of Either​/​Or, his 1997 insta-classic, extract even more vulnerability from Generation X's finest singer-songwriter. If you prefer B-sides that leave intact delicious condenser-mic imperfections and come alive with the soft buzz of tape and the plastic click of a plectrum on steel strings, then you'll be especially enthralled by Smith's prowess at tricky finger-picking and his singular voice, sensitive enough to stop clocks. The at times distant anger of Either/Or comes closer here. On the standout cut, a live take of “Angeles,” what we lose from the album version (magnificently executed double-tracked vocals) we gain in naked intimacy. Those who embrace the head-banging era of Smith's career (see Heatmiser) will enjoy this up-tempo rendition of “Punch and Judy.” Everybody else, just give us a moment.

★★★ (out of 5 stars)

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