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Various Artists
To: Elliott From: Portland
Expunged Records

It's been a while now since Elliott Smith took his life, leaving the world less one amazing songwriter. The largest difference between Smith and so many tortured artists is that his music was actually critically acclaimed and beloved by fans while he was alive, so in passing, he left a larger gap than is sometimes felt. Bands from the Portland area have come together in this latest tribute record, recording some fine versions of Elliott Smith classics, and a few that I'm not really familiar with - so for me, this album has opened up a few new tracks as well as my old favorites.

Indie favorites The Decemberists start the record off in low-fi alt-country style with a rousing rendition of "Clementine" that relies on slowly strummed acoustic guitar and haunting harmonicas to set the tone. The Decemberists do a great job of imbuing the song with that rainy day feeling that reveals a bit of the spectre that most certainly shadows the song's origins. The Helio Sequence put away their analog synthesizers and sonic playfulness for a down to earth, haunting version of the amazing "Satellite". This track alone makes the compilation a must-have, as it is a down-tempo wonder, with thickly-padded strings and brilliantly produced acoustics that simply sing with beauty. Most-of-the-time hard rockers Dolorean simplify their sound for a nicely simplified version of "The Biggest Lie", which rolls along nicely on brushed drums and acoustic guitars. The Thermals kick it up a notch, and bring the drums and guitars in a bit harder on "The Ballad Of Big Nothing", just before Swords slows things way down on their heavily atmospheric rendering of "I Didn't Understand".

Eric Matthews breaks the distortion barrier, pulling off a dark and heavy version of "Needle In The Hay", which incorporates some weird trumpets and stuttering rhythms. "Division Day" is presented in an up-tempo pop style by We Are Telephone, and Crosstide provides an almost synthpop version of the inimitable "Angeles" - beautifully recorded complete with the kind of moodiness that made Elliott's songs so important to so many. Knock-Knock makes a trip-hop journey out of "Speed Trials", which transcends the singers warbling voice due to the simple power of the song. Strangest of all, Lifesavas turns in a hip-hop version of "Happiness" that has a life of its own, separate from Elliott's work, and the rest of this album, but interesting and captivating nonetheless.

But don't think of this record as merely a tribute to the great songwriter… there is also a song recorded by Sean Croghan, who used to be a roommate of Elliott's, that has never before been released. The track doesn't have the flavor that it would if Elliott himself were singing it, but it does have a sinister feeling that would definitely make it attributable to Smith. This tribute record has some fine moments of beauty, truly paying homage to the songs that Elliott left with the world, and possibly opening the doors to his music up to a whole new crowd.

-L. Keane

Track Listing:
1. Clementine - The Decemberists
2. Satellite - The Helio Sequence
3. The Biggest Lie - Dolorean
4. Ballad Of Big Nothing - The Thermals
5. I Didn't Understand - Swords
6. Rose Parade - Sexton Blake
7. Between The Bars - Amelia
8. Needle In The Hay - Eric Matthews
9. Division Day - We Are Telephone
10. Angeles - Crosstide
11. Wouldn't Mama Be Proud - Jeff Trott
12. Speed Trials - Knock-Knock
13. King's Crossing - To Live & Die In L.A.
14. Happiness - Lifesavas
15. High Times (Previously Unreleased Track) - Sean Croghan

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