Either/Or (album)

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For the philosophical work by Søren Kierkegaard, see Either/Or.
Studio album by Elliott Smith
Released February 25, 1997 (1997-02-25)
Studio Various (see below)
Genre Indie folk[1]
Length 36:52
Label Kill Rock Stars
Elliott Smith chronology
Elliott Smith
Singles from Either/Or
  1. "Speed Trials"
    Released: October 1, 1996
  2. "Ballad of Big Nothing"
    Released: June 28, 1998

Either/Or is the third studio album by American singer-songwriter Elliott Smith. Recorded in several locations mostly in Portland, Oregon while Smith was still in Heatmiser and produced by Smith, Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf, Either/Or was released on February 25, 1997 through record label Kill Rock Stars following the demise of Heatmiser. Book-ended by the two singles "Speed Trials" and "Ballad of Big Nothing", Either/Or did not chart in the US but was acclaimed by critics.

Director Gus Van Sant was highly impressed with the album and incorporated three of its songs, along with new Elliott Smith material, into the Good Will Hunting soundtrack, propelling Smith into the international spotlight.


Either/Or was recorded at several locations: Joanna Bolme's house, Smith's own house, Undercover, Inc. and Laundry Rules Recording, all in Portland, Oregon as well as The Shop in Arcata, California and "Heatmiser House". The album was produced by Smith, Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf.[2]

Smith wrote and recorded a song entitled "Either/Or" during the sessions for this album, but it was not included on the final release. The song "Either/Or" was later included on the Elliott Smith record New Moon, a posthumous compilation of previously unreleased material.


The album's title derives from the Søren Kierkegaard book of the same name, reflecting Smith's interest in philosophy, which he studied at Hampshire College in Massachusetts.[3]

The album's style has been described as "a bridge between the lo-fi darkness of Roman Candle and Elliott Smith and the studio sheen of XO and Figure 8."[4]


The album's first single, "Speed Trials", was released on October 1, 1996.[5]

Either/Or was released on February 25, 1997.[6] It did not chart in the US.[7] The album's second and final single, "Ballad of Big Nothing", was released on June 29, 1998.[8]

Smith would be cast into the international spotlight early the following year when he performed his song, the 1997 standalone single "Miss Misery", at the 1998 Academy Awards, following the song's appearance in the major motion picture Good Will Hunting. Following this appearance, Smith was signed to major label DreamWorks and started work on his fourth studio album, XO.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[9]
Chicago Tribune 3.5/4 stars[10]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[11]
Mojo 4/5 stars[12]
NME 8/10[13]
Pitchfork Media 8.8/10[14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3.5/5 stars[15]
Select 4/5[16]
Spin 7/10[17]
Uncut 4/5 stars[12]

Either/Or was acclaimed by critics upon its release, placing at number 20 in the 1997 end-of-year Pazz & Jop poll.[18] Stephen Thompson of The A.V. Club wrote that the album "marks something of a thematic transition" for Smith, noting "brightness and a pop feel" on Either/Or in contrast to the "stark, guy-with-acoustic-guitar confessionals about drug abuse and darkness" on Elliott Smith.[19]

In its retrospective review, Tiny Mix Tapes opined: "Simply put, the songs on Either/Or are Elliott Smith's best".[4] Trouser Press called it "even more fully realized" than Elliott Smith.[20]


The album inspired Gus Van Zant to invite Smith to contribute to the soundtrack of the film Good Will Hunting. Three Either/Or tracks were incorporated into the soundtrack, as well as a new song, "Miss Misery." Smith was briefly pushed to the forefront of popular culture after performing "Miss Misery" from Good Will Hunting at the 1998 Academy Awards.

Online magazine Pitchfork Media ranked Either/Or 59th in its list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1990s.[21] Spin magazine ranked Either/Or at number 48 on its list of the best albums from 1987 to 2012.[22] Blender ranked it thirty-sixth in its "100 Greatest Indie Rock Albums Ever" list.[23] In 2013, NME placed Either/Or at number 149 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[24]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Elliott Smith. 

No. Title Length
1. "Speed Trials"   3:01
2. "Alameda"   3:43
3. "Ballad of Big Nothing"   2:48
4. "Between the Bars"   2:21
5. "Pictures of Me"   3:46
6. "No Name No. 5"   3:43
7. "Rose Parade"   3:28
8. "Punch and Judy"   2:25
9. "Angeles"   2:56
10. "Cupid's Trick"   3:04
11. "2:45 AM"   3:18
12. "Say Yes"   2:19


  • Elliott Smith – vocals, acoustic guitars, drums, bass, keyboards, electric guitars, mixing ("Alameda", "No Name No. 5", "Rose Parade", "2:45 AM")
  • Joanna Bolme – mixing ("Alameda"), back cover photography
  • Rob Schnapf – mixing ("Speed Trials", "Ballad of Big Nothing", "Between the Bars", "Pictures of Me", "Punch and Judy", "Angeles", "Cupid's Trick", "Say Yes")
  • Tom Rothrock – mixing ("Speed Trials", "Ballad of Big Nothing", "Between the Bars", "Pictures of Me", "Punch and Judy", "Angeles", "Cupid's Trick", "Say Yes")
  • Larry Crane – recording ("Pictures of Me")
  • Don (Don C. Tyler) – mastering
  • Neil Gust – sleeve layout
  • Debbie Pastor – front cover photography


  1. ^ Vaziri, Aidin (January 13, 2013). "Review: Luke Sweeney, 'Ether Ore'". SFGate. San Francisco. Retrieved September 1, 2016. 
  2. ^ Either/Or (Media notes). Elliott Smith. Kill Rock Stars. 1997. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  3. ^ "UTR – Issue 4". Under the Radar. Retrieved January 31, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Brusie, David (February 27, 2009). "Elliott Smith – Either/Or". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved January 31, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Speed Trials 7" | Kill Rock Stars". killrockstars.bandcamp.com. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Either / Or | Kill Rock Stars". killrockstars.bandcamp.com. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Elliott Smith – Chart History | Billboard". billboard.com. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  8. ^ "The Ballad of Big Nothing – Elliott Smith". AllMusic. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  9. ^ Cater, Darryl. "Either/Or – Elliott Smith". AllMusic. Retrieved January 31, 2013. 
  10. ^ Kot, Greg (April 4, 1997). "Elliott Smith: Either/Or (Kill Rock Stars)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 2, 2016. 
  11. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-857-12595-8. 
  12. ^ a b "Elliott Smith – Either/Or CD". CD Universe. Retrieved January 31, 2013. 
  13. ^ Bailie, Stuart (May 30, 1998). "Elliott Smith – Either/Or". NME. Archived from the original on August 17, 2000. Retrieved May 2, 2016. 
  14. ^ Schreiber, Ryan (March 1997). "Elliott Smith: Either/Or". Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on June 4, 2003. Retrieved January 31, 2013. 
  15. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 750–51. ISBN 0-743-20169-8. 
  16. ^ Perry, Andrew (July 1998). "Elliott Smith: Either/Or". Select (97): 86. 
  17. ^ Huston, Johnny (March 1997). "Elliott Smith: Either/Or / The Softies: Winter Pageant". Spin. 12 (12): 102–04. Retrieved May 2, 2016. 
  18. ^ "The 1997 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. February 24, 1998. Retrieved January 31, 2013. 
  19. ^ Thompson, Stephen (March 29, 2002). "Elliott Smith: Either/Or". The A.V. Club. Retrieved January 31, 2013. 
  20. ^ Azerrad, Michael; Robbins, Ira. "Heatmiser". Trouser Press. Retrieved March 29, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Staff Lists: Top 100 Albums of the 1990s". Pitchfork Media. November 17, 2003. Retrieved January 31, 2013. 
  22. ^ "125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years". Spin. February 15, 2012. Retrieved January 31, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Blender's 100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever – Stereogum". Stereogum. November 14, 2007. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  24. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time: 200–101". NME. Retrieved November 28, 2015. 

External links[edit]