Figure 8 (album)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Figure 8
A man (Elliott Smith), rendered in black-and-white, stands in front of a wall with a white background and four big swirly lines of paint forming an 'S' shape behind him; the first two are black, the third is red, and the last is black. "Elliott Smith ••" and "Figure 8" are written in white text on the swirls to the left and right sides of the man, respectively.
Studio album by Elliott Smith
Released April 18, 2000 (2000-04-18)
Recorded 1998–2000
Genre Indie pop[1]
Length 52:06
Label DreamWorks
Elliott Smith chronology
Figure 8
From a Basement on the Hill
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 1998 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.


Initially titled Place Pigalle, Figure 8 was recorded at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, Sonora Studios in Los Angeles, Capitol Studios in Hollywood and Abbey Road Studios in London.[2]

The title is thought to be taken from a song by Schoolhouse Rock!;[3] 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.[4]

Smith described the songs on the album as "more fragmented and dreamlike".[5] With Figure 8, Smith attempted to create "a happy-sounding record".[6]

Around the time of recording the album though, Smith began to become increasingly paranoid. Believing that he was being followed everywhere by a white van, Smith would have friends drop him off for recording sessions nearly a mile from the studio.[7] During this period, Smith hardly ate, eating primarily ice cream. He would go wouldn't sleep for several days and then sleep for an entire day.

Producer and friend, David McConnell, describes one of Smith's psychotic episodes during the recording of the album, saying:

“Elliott told me about having a psychotic episode while he was fed up with the current state of his life. A lot of people from the label were telling him he needed to get it together. He was so sick of people talking about the future. So he carved the word ‘now’ into his arm with a knife. And he sat down at the piano and wrote ‘Everything Means Nothing to Me’ as the blood was dripping down his arm.”[6]

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.[8] It is regularly graffiti-ed over, followed by regular restorations from fans.[9]


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".[10] 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.[11]

Figure 8 was released on April 18.[12] It peaked at number 99 on the Billboard 200.[13]

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.[14]

The promotional CD for Figure 8 featured cover artwork by Mike Mills, director of Thumbsucker.[15] Smith contributed songs to the Thumbsucker soundtrack.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 81/100[16]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[17]
Entertainment Weekly B−[18]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[19]
Los Angeles Times 3.5/4 stars[20]
Melody Maker 4/5 stars[21]
NME 8/10[22]
Pitchfork Media 6.9/10[23]
Q 4/5 stars[24]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[1]
Spin 7/10[25]

Figure 8 was well received by critics. NME called it "Smith's best effort to date".[22] Spin wrote, "The record is not a disappointment, it's a progression."[16] 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".[26]

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".[17] 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."[23] Trouser Press called it "a record that feels very different from its predecessors", describing its style as "brisk and busy, up front and confident, upbeat. While nothing here fails the consistent artistry of his work, neither does any of it make the direct connection to a soul and heart."[27]


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".[28] 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".[29] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[30]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written 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



  • Elliott Smith – guitar (1-4, 6-15), vocals (1-15), piano (1, 3, 5, 7, 11-13, 16), bass (1, 3, 6, 10, 12, 15), drums (1, 5, 6, 12, 13), organ (1, 7, 10, 12, 13), chamberlin (5, 9, 10, 15), percussion (11, 12, 15), string arrangement (3, 7, 8, 11, 15), production
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")
  • 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]


  1. ^ a b Pareles, Jon (April 27, 2000). "Figure 8". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  2. ^ Figure 8 (Media notes). Elliott Smith. United States: DreamWorks. 2000. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Sweed Adeline | Figure 8". Sweet Adeline. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  4. ^ Rodman, Sarah (May 11, 2000). "Elliott Smith's 'Figure 8' Embodies His Endless Quest for Perfection.". Boston Herald. Retrieved June 21, 2013.  (subscription required)
  5. ^ Wohlfield, Carsten. "Luna Kafe E-Zine – Elliott Smith: The Hamburger Interview". Luna Kafé. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Elliott Smith: 'Mr. Misery' Revisited, Years After the Singer-Songwriter's Controversial Death". Spin. 2013-10-21. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  7. ^ "Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing". Wikipedia. 2016-10-10. 
  8. ^ Fitzmaurice (August 12, 2011). "Elliott Smith Mural Updated for Smith's Birthday | News | Pitchfork". Pitchfork. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  9. ^ Vanderslice, Heidi (February 29, 2008). "Elliott Smith Memorial Vandalized... Again | Music News | Etc | Tiny Mix Tapes". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  10. ^ Jacks, Kelso (February 28, 2000). "Reviews". CMJ New Music Report: 26. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Elliott Smith". CMJ New Music Report. April 3, 2000. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Elliott Smith •• Figure 8 In Stores April 18th At College Radio Now!". CMJ New Music Report: 2. April 17, 2000. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "Elliott Smith – Chart History | Billboard". Billboard. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  14. ^ Figure 8 (Media notes). Elliott Smith. Japan: DreamWorks. 2000. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  15. ^ Figure 8 (Media notes). Elliott Smith. United States: DreamWorks Records. 2000. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "Reviews for Figure 8 by Elliott Smith". Metacritic. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Huey, Steve. "Figure 8 – Elliott Smith". AllMusic. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  18. ^ Browne, David (April 17, 2000). "Figure 8". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 12, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Other pop releases". The Guardian. April 14, 2000. Retrieved April 9, 2016. 
  20. ^ Hilburn, Robert (April 16, 2000). "He Skates Deftly on Thin Ice". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 9, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Elliott Smith: Figure 8". Melody Maker: 48. April 18, 2000. 
  22. ^ a b "Figure 8". NME. April 14, 2000. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  23. ^ a b Schreiber, Ryan (March 31, 2000). "Elliott Smith: Figure 8". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Elliott Smith: Figure 8". Q (164): 114. May 2000. 
  25. ^ Clover, Joshua (May 2000). "Dream Weaver". Spin. 16 (5): 153–54. Retrieved April 9, 2016. 
  26. ^ Thompson, Stephen (March 29, 2002). "Elliott Smith: Figure 8". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  27. ^ Azerrad, Michael; Robbins, Ira. "Heatmiser". Trouser Press. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Staff Lists: The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 200–151 | Features | Pitchfork". Pitchfork. September 28, 2009. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  29. ^ "100 Best Albums of the 2000s: Elliott Smith, 'Figure 8' | Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  30. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2. 
  31. ^ " – Discography Elliott Smith". Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  32. ^ a b "Elliott Smith | Artist | Official Charts". Official Charts. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 

External links[edit]