By David Kenney
Last year at the Seventh Note Club in San Francisco, Elliott Smith looked on the edge. After a rough show and year, he’s reached that edge. On Figure 8, Smith counters with a record that sounds bittersweet-but-getting-over-it. Here, he buys into a dawdling piano and clutching electric guitar melodies. Still sad as ever, Smith grieves ex-girlfriends in his familiar Paul Simon-ish murmur.
The Portland singer/songwriter delves into unfamilar territory both inspiring and surprising. Orchestral tinkering and chilling lyrics boost "Junk Bond Trader" to a creepy height. Other songs show Smith’s immense maturity from the simple storytelling of Roman Candle.
"Happiness" is Smith’s best luke-warm feeling goodbye song. But "I Better Be Quiet Now" is a clear-cut classic, with Smith eulogizing love in, "I’ve got a long way to go/I’m getting further away." With an album this diverse and genuine he’s not as far as he thinks.