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on 25 April 2017
My introduction to the genius of Elliott Smith....subsequently went out and bought everything else...so sad that I'll never get the opportunity to see him live....the quality of the songwriting is superb...unusual arrangements....plenty of surprises...Better Be Quiet Now is a perfect song...buy this....then by the rest....
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on 17 April 2001
"You're a little bit like God!" I remember someone shouting as Mr Smith took to the stage at last year's Glastonbury Festival. You won't find any "bigger than Jesus" claims from the modest American but in a current music that makes Bono look distinctly saviour-like Figure 8 is certainly an album that deserves to be listened to religiously. In a world of mundane, manufactured puppets Elliott Smith is a man you can trust. Figure 8 is one of those perfect hazy summer soundtracks that you could easily let wash over you, but to do this would be to miss the beauty of the record. Listening to Figure 8 you can't help but feel buoyed by the shimmering eloquence of the tunes and yet the lyrics are of such a crushing, heart-breaking nature that you almost feel guilty for enjoying listening to this out pouring of anguish. It is the way in which Smith conveys his torment that makes him undoubtedly one of the finest lyricists around. As he harmonises, Simon and Garfunkel style, through 16 tracks of social commentary, anecdote and emotion Smith sings with such humanity and feeling that his songs have the power to really touch you. Easily Elliott Smith's best work to date, Figure 8 adopts a more rock 'n' roll feel musically on songs like the outstanding 'LA' and Stupidity Tries' but still contains plenty of Smith's signature ballads ('Everything Reminds Me Of Her' and 'Somebody I Used To Know' being the pick of these). Sounding more gloriously fragile than his previous efforts the most powerful moments of the album come during these ballads when Smith's vocals are at their most delicate. Around a year on from its initial release Figure 8 still fails to be recognised by the majority of the record buying public and this album of astonishing beauty looks confined to being one of the lost jewels of 2000.
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I would say that Elliott Smith's fifth studio album is easily his most assessable work. Though it isn't as intimate as his earliest records, and the production on this 2000 record is noticeably much cleaner, and fuller with the use of more instruments, that doesn't take away any of the enjoyment of 'Figure 8', the last album to be released in Elliott's lifetime, from me.

Most of the songs on here are light and gentle indie-pop gems, with sophisticated arrangements. The man himself rightly described them as ''more fragmented and dreamlike.'' If the infectious opener 'Son of Sam' doesn't make you want to hit the repeat button, then nothing will. That, which was also released as a single, is one of many shining highlights, as well as 'Junk Box Trader', 'Happiness', and the hauntingly beautiful 'Everything Means Nothing To Me', which is one of several times we are clearly able to hear a very strong Beatles feeling in the harmonies.

As always, Elliott's angel-like voice, and the sheer quality of his song writing, are on show throughout this brilliant, creative pop album. This troubled young soul, tired down by a long battle with depression and drug addiction, passed on far too soon in 2003, and although he has left behind so many masterpieces, he should be here today to make more of them. He's one of my all-time favourite musicians, and one of the best songwriters to have emerged in the '90s. But his fans already know this, and you will to if you decide to do yourself a favour and invest in his work. The highly accessible 'Figure 8' is a great place to begin with.
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on 18 April 2013
Not sure what to make of this cd yet. I'm sure it will grow on me. I was expecting something more acoustic. But hey, you takes your chances.
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on 10 October 2003
I've got to admit I've never felt inclined to write a review before, I guess I got too annoyed reading the NME to ever want to be a music hack.
You should buy this, it's a really wonderful thing to have tucked away for a lonely evening in on your own. The melodies are completely disarming, what can start out with little promise will turn in to something wonderful. Just listen to 'Everything means nothing to me' you'll see what I mean. Immediately preceeded by 'Everything reminds me of her' which is genuinely touching, it maybe comes a little close to sixth form poetry teritory but in a good way.
Opener 'Son of Sam' was released as a single, and style wise you can see why it was chosen, its catchy, it has a nice hook to its about identifying with a serial killer.
Not playing by the rules as you can see.
In any review you will read about the production and the increase between Smith's first solo releases, which were a side project for him while he was still in Heatmiser, and Figure 8 and XO. Figure 8 is not as produced as XO, but neither album is as heavily produced as anything you would hear on FM radio in any given hour. It still all sounds pretty hand knitted in comparison to the mainstream, and that is a very good thing indeed.
Make yourself happy, in a meloncholic sort of way.
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on 13 December 2005
It is rare to find an artist with such talent as Elliott Smith. ‘Figure 8’ is a masterpiece in everyway. In my opinion, ‘Figure 8’ was the peak of Elliott’s career. He carefully constructs a record that reflects both a combination of ‘Either/Or’, and ‘Xo’, which creates a creative masterpiece so much so that it is hard to find faults within it. The lyrics throughout the album constantly reflect Elliott’s emotions towards life that creates a real sense of intimacy within the record. As a great fan of Elliott smith, I had never felt that connection truly establish until I heard ‘Figure 8’. The one thing that elevates this album from the rest of Elliott’s work is the collage of folk-rock-ballard that fits beautify within the whole album. If the piano to ‘In the lost and found (Honkey Bach)’ and the uplifting beat to ‘Color Bars’ does not get you head bobbing, you seriously need to consider your taste in music. This album is Elliott’s finest, and it’s a damn shame that such talent ended as it did.
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on 28 October 2003
Following his recent suicide, there is bound to be an upsurge of interest in Elliot Smith's music. Some might see this as hyporcritical; I myself simply see it as the simple fact that sometimes it takes news like this to raise awareness that somebody even existed.
That taken into consideration...I have been a fan of Elliot Smith since around 1998 and, although I've not listened to him so much recently (due to it being three years since he had released an album and the fact I had recently bought several other albums) he has remained one of my favourite songwriters and I had been eagerly looking forward to his sixth album.
When I heard he had died, the first thing I did was stick this (his last and my favourite CD) on and was reminded how wonderful it is.
Despite his reputatation as a sad acoustic troubadour, this album displays a range of talents from the piano-led "In the Lost and Found" to the snarling rocker "Junk Bond Trader" while final song (bar a closing instrumental) "Can't Make A Sound" has shades of Mercury Rev or Flaming Lips in use of effects and production.
Obviously Nick Drake and the Beatles remain reference points but it must be pointed out that Smith was no copyist and I truly feel his best moments could not have been written by anyone else. "Everything means nothing to me" and "Happiness" in particular shine here although, perhaps even more so due to what has happened, it is the quiet melanchony "I'd Better Be Quiet Now" that sticks in the mind and may be used as an urgent comforter on lonely winter nights. The line "If I didn't know the difference, living alone would probably be ok, it wouldn't be lonely..." is to my mind one of the most heartbreaking lyrics ever committed to disc.
For a newcomer to Smith (and whilst some fans feel understandbly differently, I hope Elliot Smith gains a lot of new fans - he always deserved to) this album, along with XO, probably provide the most valuable introductions to his brilliant music.
To return my starting point, I don't agree with buying albums of people just because they've died. Especially when there are lots of reasons to try this superb album.
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on 24 October 2003
Elliott Smith's death this week hit me really hard; I've not experienced the loss of any of my heroes before. I had been checking his official site for months, awaiting news of the follow up to Figure 8, one of my favourite albums of all time (and certainly my favourite of Smith's, just edging out XO and Either/Or). So to be greeted with news of his demise was a massive shock.
For me, Figure 8 edges out his other full-production piece, XO, by virtue of not having a bad song amongst its 16 (even the quick instrumental that brings the CD to a close is strangely haunting, and aptly titled "Bye"). Either/Or - the last of his *acoustic* records, lacks the interest of Figure 8, although the songs are, as ever, fragile and poignant.
Figure 8 is one of those albums that when you first hear it, you like the sound, but nothing stands out; however, it grows with repeated listens, and where albums that instantly gratify tend to become irritating, works like this sound eternally fresh. The album is replete with sumptuous melodies, but they are not obvious ones. The pace is mostly gentle, but the songs don't blend monotonously into one and other; however, they do sit wonderfully side-by-side, and it sounds like an album from a man with one vision, rather than a collection of ill-suited sketches.
If I had to pick out one song, it would be Can't Make A Sound, which starts with a whisper but builds to the album's climax proper (before the addition of Bye). It seems apt that a man who took his own life in dramatic circumstances should have ended his final album (work in progress on his sixth album pending) with I'd better Be Quiet Now, Can't Make A Sound, and Bye...
I am incredibly saddened at Smith's demise, and, from a selfish point of view, angry that I will deprived of further releases by a genius of a songwriter (unless, of course, the work in progress was at a sufficient stage for us to hear). But if his death brings him to the attention to the world, and his work gets heard by a larger audience, then that is one crumb of comfort.
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on 20 April 2000
Hey, don't be put off with the mention of Bernard Butler in the Amazon review. BB would do well to remember that he's a quality guitarist but is in the Vauxhaul Conference when compared to the likes of Elliott Smiths song writing abilities.
ES fans will have already bought Figure 8 in eager anticipation of their next fix, pure and simple this man is Class A addictive. If this is your first outing then i'd liken this to the perfect Sunday; just the right amount of melancholy, luscious sweeping arrangements offset with fragile delicate songs. Think of a gutsier Simon & Garfunkle, a one man Beatles. If you're already familiar with ES then place this between the spellbinding XO and the sparse blueprint of Either/Or which for me was great songs but a little light on production.
ES is a people watcher, his observations and his ability to convey what he sees are outstanding. Can't Make A Sound, Junk Bond Trader and opener Son Of Sam are my initial standout tracks but like his previous releases these songs have a great ability to grow like Ivy, creeping into the mind and taking over.
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on 17 April 2000
I've just read the amazon.co.uk review above and scratched my head in disbelief. If this is what is on offer from the singer/songwriter genre, it is not a fine swansong but a defiant middle-finger gesture at the staid and dull production-mill music we are collectively subjected to on a daily basis. Artists like Elliott Smith have given me a reason to be excited about new music, interesting music, involving music, to a greater degree than in many years. Don't write them, or him, off yet; there is so much on offer (within the genre, and certainly from this individual) and the trend doesn't look like slowing down at this early juncture. When technologies change and fashions change, good songs retain the strength that made them good in the first place, be that due to the simplicities of an acoustic guitar, a piano, or the intimacy of a highly personal vocal delivery. That, my friends, is what we are left with here, and it's wonderful. Like the best of his work, you warm to the songs quickly, familiarity becomes quickly established and it creeps into your subconscious.
My introduction to Elliott's work came with "Either/Or" in 1997, but it was the following year's "XO" that had me totally bowled over. Initial reactions are similar this time around, and from the opener, 'Son of Sam' it just wraps you up in a delicate mesh of fragile harmonies, intricate arrangements and honest lyricism. With 'Son of Sam', 'LA' and 'Happiness' you get a slice of fun, with 'Everything means nothing to me' you get despondency, reflection on 'Couldn't make a sound' and 'Sweet Mary K'. Something for every mood? Not really, but a good, balanced cross-section, and far more preferable to the 100% fun and/or nihilistic self-destruction many record companies seem to think the population at large wants.
Granted, Elliott Smith isn't for everybody. Some people out there would never see past the occasionally sombre delivery, the thin voice, or the distinct lack of cliché, macho guts and mindless bombast. God help us if we wake up one day and find that music can be so simply categorised. Along with Fiona Apple's "When The Pawn..." and Aimee Mann's "Bachelor No. 2", "Figure 8" joins the ranks of the most involving and interesting recordings of the last 12 months. And Jon Brion plays on all of them. Like Mulder, I want to believe...
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