This second posthumous Elliot Smith release -- the first being 2004s From a Basement Hill
-- collects together 24 previously unreleased songs written between 1994 and 1997. Its a lighter, sweeter document than ... Basement Hill
, not only because its aligned to Smiths generally more insouciant Kill Rock Stars
period but also because - unlike its predecessor New Moon is distanced enough from Smiths downward descent into depression (and subsequent suicide) to avoid the same intense levels of psychological scrutiny and lyrical analysis. The songs here are more in line with seminal Smith albums like Elliot Smith
; that is to say they largely feature Smith -- his voice, his timeless lyricism, his versatile melodies -- mixing it up between fairly breezy pop tunes and deeper, melancholic fare. No strings. No tricks. Just songs. In contrast to later works, New Moon never gets seriously heavy, and hearing tracks like the early version of "Miss Misery" is a definite bonus, even for hard-core fans. Far from being an album of second-rate off-cuts, New Moon is a very worthy addition to a formidable oeuvre. --Paul Sullivan
Before his untimely death in 2003 there were moments when Elliott Smith seriously looked like becoming the Neil Young of his generation. Nowadays it feels rather like he's been hard done by. Is it wrong to suspect that had he looked a bit more like Jeff Buckley and rather less like a particularly unhappy lumberjack things would be different?
Elliott Smith gave the impression of having become famous by mistake, that he was just too precious for this cruel world and the very titles of the songs here on New Moon add to this feeling. "Miss Misery" "Fear City," "See How Things Are Hard," and my particular favourite "Going Nowhere," veer alarmingly close to being a parody of the sensitive singer songwriter. There ain't no 'hello sky, hello sunshine' type of songs to be found here.
However if the titles are depressing the music definitely isn't. The vibe may be fragile and sensitive but the overall feeling is one of melancholy rather than misery which is a whole different experience. His deceptively delicate voice hovers somewhere between Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel's and has a very real power which stays with you long after the songs are over.
However New Moon is a collection for people who are fans already. These songs may have been recorded during his peak years in the mid to late nineties but frankly the albums Either/Or and Xo, recorded at the same period, are far better and if you aren't aware of Smith's work start there. For the already initiated though, New Moon is a delight which can only add to the growing legend of a special talent. --Brian McCluskey
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