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For anyone who ever had a heart
on 4 October 2007
Another posthumous release from the sorely-missed Elliott Smith, a man with the sort of back catalogue most singer-songwriters can only dream of. This two-disc compilation is kind of a mixed bag: twenty-four tracks pulled from various sources - demos, rarities, alternate versions - all recorded in the mid-nineties when Smith was putting together seminal albums such as `Either/Or'. Most of these songs were never meant to see the light of day, so it's understandable that `New Moon' lacks the coherence of the previous offering, `From a Basement on a Hill', but it's still worthy of five stars.
Quite a few of these tracks have been knocking around on the internet for a couple of years, but there's almost certainly something here that even the most devoted fans haven't heard (or been able to own) yet. It's all pretty lo-fi really, just Elliott singing and strumming, a raw sound more like his eponymous second album than later, larger-scale works like `XO'. But there really are some gems here. We get an early version of his Oscar-nominated song, Miss Misery, and a lovely cover of Big Star's `Thirteen'. Highlights for me are `Seen How Things Are Hard', `Going Nowhere', `High Times', `Whatever (Folk Song in C)' and a truly beautiful solo rendition of 'Half Right', an old track from his Heatmiser days.
Money doesn't grow on trees, but you might be forgiven - in Smith's case - for thinking that songs do. He was so prolific in his too-short life that we've been spoiled so far with the illusion of `new' songs. But logic dictates that the treasure trove must be nearly empty by now. He was doing some of his best work in the months before he died, and listening to `New Moon' is a bittersweet reminder that we might easily have had another two or three beautiful albums by now if not for his tragic death.