Elliott Smith (album)

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Elliott Smith
Elliott Smith (album).jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 21, 1995
  • September 1994 at Tony Lash's house
  • January–February 1995 at Leslie Uppinghouse's house
LabelKill Rock Stars
ProducerElliott Smith
Elliott Smith chronology
Roman Candle
Elliott Smith
Singles from Elliott Smith
  1. "Needle in the Hay"
    Released: January 1, 1995

Elliott Smith is the second studio album by American singer-songwriter Elliott Smith. It was recorded from late 1994 to early 1995, and released on July 21, 1995, through Kill Rock Stars, his first album on the label. It was preceded by the single "Needle in the Hay", released in early January 1995.


After being impressed by Smith, Mary Lou Lord invited him to tour with her, and helped him to sign to Kill Rock Stars.[1]


The album is of a similar musical style to Roman Candle in its minimalist, acoustic folk sound.[citation needed] Smith mostly appears alone on his acoustic guitar, although he is occasionally backed up by the odd musical instrument, such as a harmonica and drums.[2] Rolling Stone wrote of the album, "the music burrows, digging up gems of structure, melody and lyrical vividness that belie his naïve delivery [...] the sound is hummable pop, slowed and drugged, with tricky but unshowy guitar work driving the melodies forward".[3]

The album's lyrics contain many references to drug use, which Smith claimed were merely metaphorical. The album cover, depicting cut-out figures falling from buildings as if they were committing suicide, features a photograph by J.J. Gonson, who also photographed the cover for Roman Candle.[1]

The song "Clementine" is a reworking of the 19th century American western folk ballad "Oh My Darling, Clementine", which Smith would reference again in a later song, "Sweet Adeline", released in 1998 on XO. Smith wrote this song about a close friend, Clementine Hudson, who joined him on some lo-fi home recordings in his early career before pursuing a career in accountancy.

The song "Christian Brothers" was also performed with Heatmiser in a full-band arrangement, recorded around the same time as the version featured on Elliott Smith; Heatmiser's version was released on the soundtrack of Heaven Adores You, a 2014 documentary about Smith's life and music.

Thematically, Smith said that he "personally can't get more dark" than his self-titled album.[4]


"Needle in the Hay", the album's only single, was released in early January 1995.[5]

Elliott Smith was released on July 21, 1995, through Kill Rock Stars, making it his first full-length album on the label.[6] In contrast to Roman Candle, Elliott Smith was "promoted heavily", with posters of Smith appearing in the windows of record stores across the Northwest District of Portland, Oregon, where Smith lived at the time.[1]

The album was reissued in an remastered and expanded 25th anniversary edition on August 28, 2020. The release also features a live album, Live at Umbra Penumbra, a 1994 performance at a Portland café, thought to be the earliest-known live recording of Smith performing as a solo artist. As part of the anniversary edition, J.J. Gonson, the artist behind the Elliott Smith album cover, released a 52-page coffee table book with handwritten lyrics, words from Smith's peers about the album's creation, and a series of previously unseen photographs. Gonson released a series of photo prints of Smith, one per month through August 2020, available for purchase through Morrison Hotel Gallery.[7]

Of the reissue, Kill Rock Stars co-founder Slim Moon said:

"I've always felt like this record is underappreciated. A lot of people overlook Elliott's first two records—they think of them as a prelude to the bigger albums that followed—but when you go back, you discover they're really great. This is Elliott's most fragile and delicate music, and we wanted to honor that with a special and beautiful package."[7]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[2]
The Guardian4/5 stars[8]
The Irish Times3/5 stars[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[12]

While not believed to have been reviewed by many, if any, critics at the time of its release, Elliott Smith has been critically well-received retrospectively. Steve Huey of AllMusic wrote "Elliott Smith contains the blueprint for his later successes, and more importantly, it's a fully-realized work itself."[2] Trouser Press described it as "bleak, almost uncomfortably unsparing and yet tragically beautiful", and that "the songs, melodies, arrangements and production are all stronger and more fully realized than those on Roman Candle".[13]


Pitchfork rated "Needle in the Hay" as the twenty-seventh best song of the 1990s.[14] "Christian Brothers" has been covered by Queens of the Stone Age, with frontman Josh Homme emphasizing how much he loves the song.

Rolling Stone magazine described Smith as "ferociously talented", and the music as "some of the loveliest songs about the dissolution of a soul ever written [...] hypnotic and terribly, unrelentingly sad".[3]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Elliott Smith.

1."Needle in the Hay"4:16
2."Christian Brothers"4:30
4."Southern Belle"3:06
5."Single File"2:26
6."Coming Up Roses"3:10
8."Alphabet Town"4:11
9."St. Ides Heaven"3:00
10."Good to Go"2:24
11."The White Lady Loves You More"2:24
12."The Biggest Lie"2:39

Elliott Smith: Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition[edit]

All tracks are written by Elliott Smith.

Elliott Smith: Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition
1."Needle in the Hay" (25th Anniversary Remaster)4:17
2."Christian Brothers" (25th Anniversary Remaster)4:31
3."Clementine" (25th Anniversary Remaster)2:46
4."Southern Belle" (25th Anniversary Remaster)3:06
5."Single File" (25th Anniversary Remaster)2:26
6."Coming Up Roses" (25th Anniversary Remaster)3:11
7."Satellite" (25th Anniversary Remaster)2:26
8."Alphabet Town" (25th Anniversary Remaster)4:12
9."St. Ides Heaven" (25th Anniversary Remaster)3:00
10."Good to Go" (25th Anniversary Remaster)2:25
11."The White Lady Loves You More" (25th Anniversary Remaster)2:24
12."The Biggest Lie" (25th Anniversary Remaster)2:40

All tracks are written by Elliott Smith.

Live At Umbra Penumbra
1."Some Song" (Live At Umbra Penumbra - September 17th, 1994)2:56
2."Alphabet Town" (Live At Umbra Penumbra - September 17th, 1994)4:43
3."Whatever (Folk Song in C)" (Live At Umbra Penumbra - September 17th, 1994)2:53
4."No Name #4" (Live At Umbra Penumbra - September 17th, 1994)2:43
5."Big Decision" (Live At Umbra Penumbra - September 17th, 1994)2:37
6."Condor Ave" (Live At Umbra Penumbra - September 17th, 1994)3:33
7."No Name #1" (Live At Umbra Penumbra - September 17th, 1994)3:18
8."No Confidence Man" (Live At Umbra Penumbra - September 17th, 1994)4:33
9."Crazy Fucker" (Live At Umbra Penumbra - September 17th, 1994)3:34
10."Half Right" (Live At Umbra Penumbra - September 17th, 1994)4:32


  • Elliott Smith – vocals, acoustic guitars, drums (2, 6, 9), electric guitar (6, 7, 10), tambourine (3), air organ (6), harmonica (8), cello (11)
Additional personnel
  • Neil Gust – electric guitar ("Single File"), sleeve photography
  • Rebecca Gates – backing vocals ("St. Ides Heaven")
  • Leslie Uppinghouse – mixing assistance
  • Tony Lash – mixing assistance
  • J.J. Gonson – cover photography


  1. ^ a b c Nugent, Benjamin (2004). Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81447-1.
  2. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "Elliott Smith – Elliott Smith". AllMusic. AllRovi. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Elliott Smith: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on July 24, 2012. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
  4. ^ Peisner, David. "Elliott Smith Interview: Well Rounded Entertainment". Well Rounded Entertainment. Archived from the original on September 19, 2000. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
  5. ^ "Needle in the Hay 7" | Kill Rock Stars". Bandcamp. Retrieved June 21, 2013.
  6. ^ "Elliott Smith | Kill Rock Stars". Kill Rock Stars. Retrieved June 23, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Minsker, Evan. "'Elliott Smith' Expanded 25th Anniversary Reissue With New Live Album Announced". Pitchfork. Condé Nast. Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  8. ^ Sullivan, Caroline (August 7, 1998). "Pretty burns". The Guardian.
  9. ^ Clayton-Lea, Tony (December 24, 2004). "Elliott Smith: Roman Candle / Elliott Smith / Either/Or (Domino)". The Irish Times. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  10. ^ Martin, Gavin (August 1, 1998). "Elliott Smith – Roman Candle / Elliott Smith". NME. Archived from the original on October 11, 2000. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  11. ^ Sodomsky, Sam (May 24, 2020). "Elliott Smith: Elliott Smith". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  12. ^ Berger, Arion (2004). "Elliott Smith". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 750–51. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  13. ^ Azerrad, Michael; Robbins, Ira. "TrouserPress.com :: Heatmiser". Trouser Press. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  14. ^ "Staff Lists: The Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s: 50–21 | Features | Pitchfork". Pitchfork. September 2, 2010. Retrieved April 13, 2013.

External links[edit]