Figure 8 (album)

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Figure 8
Elliott smith figure 8 cover.jpg
Studio album by Elliott Smith
Released April 18, 2000 (2000-04-18)
Recorded 1999–2000 at Sunset Sound, Capitol Studios, Sonora Studios and Abbey Road Studios
Genre Indie pop, indie folk, indie rock
Length 52:06
Label DreamWorks
Producer Tom Rothrock, Rob Schnapf, Elliott Smith
Elliott Smith chronology
XO
(1998)
Figure 8
(2000)
From a Basement on the Hill
(2004)
Singles from Figure 8
  1. "Happiness"
    Released: February 8, 2000
  2. "Son of Sam"
    Released: April 11, 2000

Figure 8 is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, and the final album he completed before his death. It was recorded from 1999 to 2000 at numerous studios and released on April 18, 2000 through DreamWorks Records. Preceded by the singles "Happiness" and "Son of Sam", Figure 8 was Smith's second release on a major label.

Background[edit]

Figure 8 was recorded at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, Sonora Studios in Los Angeles, Capitol Studios in Hollywood and Abbey Road Studios in London.[1]

The title is thought to be taken from a song by Schoolhouse Rock!;[2] Smith covered this song, but it did not make the final track listing. Regarding the album's title, Smith said this in a May 11, 2000 article in Boston Herald:

I liked the idea of a self-contained, endless pursuit of perfection. But I have a problem with perfection. I don't think perfection is very artful. But there's something I liked about the image of a skater going in this endless twisted circle that doesn't have any real endpoint. So the object is not to stop or arrive anywhere; it's just to make this thing as beautiful as they can.[3]

Smith described the songs on the album as "more fragmented and dreamlike".[4]

Cover photo[edit]

The Figure 8 wall on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles

The wall Smith stands in front of in Autumn de Wilde's photograph on the cover of the album exists in Los Angeles, and since his death it has become a memorial to him. It is located at 4334 W. Sunset Boulevard, which is a store by the name of Solutions Audio-Video Repair, just east of the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Fountain Avenue. It has at some stages been covered with written messages containing lyrics and personal messages to Smith, as well as displaying a stencil of Smith in order to mimic the photo on the album cover.[5] It is regularly graffiti-ed over, followed by regular restorations from fans.[6]

Release[edit]

The album's first single, "Happiness", was released on February 8, 2000. CMJ New Music Report wrote, "While the tune's production recalls the shimmer of XO, it possesses curiously upbeat energy atypical for Smith".[7] This was followed by the album's second and final single, "Son of Sam", on April 11. A music video was released for "Son of Sam", directed by Autumn de Wilde.[8]

Figure 8 was released on April 18.[9] It peaked at number 99 on the Billboard 200.[10]

The Japanese release of this album included Smith's cover of The Beatles' song "Because" from the movie American Beauty and "Figure 8", an abridged cover of a Schoolhouse Rock! song.[11]

The promotional CD for Figure 8 featured cover artwork by Mike Mills, director of Thumbsucker.[12] Smith contributed songs to the Thumbsucker soundtrack.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 81/100[13]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[14]
The A.V. Club favorable[15]
Entertainment Weekly B–[16]
Mojo 4.5/5 stars[13]
NME 8/10[17]
Pitchfork 6.9/10[18]
Q 4/5 stars[13]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[19]
Trouser Press favorable[20]

Figure 8 was well-received by critics. NME called it "Smith's best effort to date".[17] Spin wrote, "The record is not a disappointment, it's a progression."[13] The A.V. Club wrote, "Figure 8 is even better [than previous records], a strong collection of lush, densely arranged power-pop [...] and inimitably intimate ballads".[15]

AllMusic was more critical, writing, "Even if it is a very impressive statement overall, Figure 8 isn't quite the masterpiece it wants to be".[14] Pitchfork, too, opined, "Figure 8, ultimately, isn't as good a record as XO or Either/Or, though the man's not out of the picture yet."[18]

Accolades[edit]

In 2009, Pitchfork placed Figure 8 at number 190 on its list of the 200 greatest albums of the 2000s, noting, "Not quite as intimate as his earliest records and not quite brash and bombastic like its immediate predecessor, Figure 8 marks a subtle refinement of Smith's songwriting skills" and calling it "one of Smith's most accessible and enjoyable records".[21] Rolling Stone placed it at number 42 on their list of the 100 greatest albums of the decade, calling it Smith's "haunted high-water mark".[22]

Legacy[edit]

The indie rock band BOAT parodied the album's cover art, among several others, on its 2011 release Dress Like Your Idols.

"Somebody That I Used to Know" was played in the end credits to the True Blood season 5 episode of the same name.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Elliott Smith. 

No. Title Length
1. "Son of Sam"   3:04
2. "Somebody That I Used to Know"   2:09
3. "Junk Bond Trader"   3:49
4. "Everything Reminds Me of Her"   2:37
5. "Everything Means Nothing to Me"   2:24
6. "L.A."   3:14
7. "In the Lost and Found (Honky Bach)"/"The Roost"   4:32
8. "Stupidity Tries"   4:23
9. "Easy Way Out"   2:44
10. "Wouldn't Mama Be Proud"   3:25
11. "Color Bars"   2:19
12. "Happiness"/"The Gondola Man"   5:04
13. "Pretty Mary K"   2:36
14. "I Better Be Quiet Now"   3:35
15. "Can't Make a Sound"   4:18
16. "Bye"   1:53

Charts[edit]

Album charts
Chart Peak
position
Australian Albums Chart 45[23]
UK Albums Chart 37[24]
US Billboard 200 99[10]
Single charts
Year Song Peak positions
UK
2000 "Son of Sam" 55[24]

Personnel[edit]

  • Elliott Smith – string arrangement, production, all other instruments
Additional personnel
  • Sam Coomes – bass guitar ("Everything Means Nothing to Me", "In the Lost and Found (Honky Bach)", "Stupidity Tries", "Pretty Mary K")
  • Pete Thomas – drums ("Junk Bond Trader", "Wouldn't Mama Be Proud?", "Can't Make a Sound")
  • Joey Waronker – drums ("Stupidity Tries")
  • Jon Brion – backing vocals ("Happiness"/"The Gondola Man")
  • Suzie Katayama – string conduction and orchestration ("Junk Bond Trader", "In the Lost and Found (Honky Bach)", "Color Bars", "Can't Make a Sound")
  • Matt Dunkley – string conduction and orchestration ("Stupidity Tries")
Technical
  • Rob Schnapf – production
  • Tom Rothrock – production
  • Don C. Tyler – mastering
  • Paul Hicks – engineering assistance (Abbey Road Studios)
  • Charlie Paakkari – engineering assistance (Capitol Studios)
  • Dann Thompson – engineering assistance (Capitol Studios)
  • Jimmy Hoyson – engineering assistance (Capitol Studios)
  • Steve Genewick – engineering assistance (Capitol Studios)
  • Richard Baron – engineering assistance (Sonora Studios)
  • Geoff Walcha – engineering assistance (Sunset Sound Recorders)
  • Monique Mizrahi – engineering assistance (Sunset Sound Recorders)
  • Autumn DeWilde – sleeve art direction, design and photography
  • Dale Smith – sleeve art direction and design

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Figure 8 (Media notes). Elliott Smith. United States: DreamWorks. 2000. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Sweed Adeline | Figure 8". Sweet Adeline. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  3. ^ Rodman, Sarah (May 11, 2000). "Elliott Smith's 'Figure 8' Embodies His Endless Quest for Perfection.". Boston Herald. Retrieved June 21, 2013.  (subscription required)
  4. ^ Wohlfield, Carsten. "Luna Kafe E-Zine – Elliott Smith: The Hamburger Interview". Luna Kafé. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  5. ^ Fitzmaurice (August 12, 2011). "Elliott Smith Mural Updated for Smith's Birthday | News | Pitchfork". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  6. ^ Vanderslice, Heidi (February 29, 2008). "Elliott Smith Memorial Vandalized... Again | Music News | Etc | Tiny Mix Tapes". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  7. ^ Jacks, Kelso (February 28, 2000). "Reviews". CMJ New Music Report: 26. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Elliott Smith". CMJ New Music Report. April 3, 2000. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Elliott Smith •• Figure 8 In Stores April 18th At College Radio Now!". CMJ New Music Report: 2. April 17, 2000. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "Elliott Smith – Chart History | Billboard". Billboard. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  11. ^ Figure 8 (Media notes). Elliott Smith. Japan: DreamWorks. 2000. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  12. ^ Figure 8 (Media notes). Elliott Smith. United States: DreamWorks Records. 2000. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c d "Figure 8 Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More – Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Huey, Steve. "Figure 8 – Elliott Smith : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Thompson, Stephen (March 29, 2002). "Elliott Smith: Figure 8 | Music | MusicalWork Review | The A.V. Club". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  16. ^ Browne, David (April 17, 2000). "Figure 8". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 12, 2014. 
  17. ^ a b "NME Album Reviews – Figure 8 – nme.com". NME. April 14, 2000. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  18. ^ a b Schreiber, Ryan (March 31, 2000). "Elliott Smith: Figure 8 | Album Reviews | Pitchfork". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  19. ^ Pareles, Jon (April 27, 2000). "Figure 8 | Album Reviews | Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  20. ^ Azerrad, Michael; Robbins, Ira. "trouserpress.com :: Heatmiser". Trouser Press. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Staff Lists: The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 200–151 | Features | Pitchfork". Pitchfork. September 28, 2009. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  22. ^ "100 Best Albums of the 2000s: Elliott Smith, 'Figure 8' | Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Discography Elliott Smith". Australian-charts.com. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  24. ^ a b "Elliott Smith | Artist | Official Charts". Official Charts. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 

External links[edit]