Sound — 10
Elliott Smith, as whoever is reading this will almost certainly already know, died in 2003. The details of how and why are not of importance in this review, though it should be said that he left behind many fans, and gains more by the day through his incredible collection of music. New Moon is his second posthumous release and has obviously been compiled with incredible care, unlike the rushed From a Basement on the Hill. The double album consists of tracks recorded between the years of 1994 and 1997, and though many songs are from sessions for his self titled album and Either/Or, don't assume they're of some lesser standard. Out of the 24 tracks, there isn't a dud among them. Opener "Angel in the Snow" sets the tone for the rest of the collection perfectly. Just Smith's trademark layered vocals and acoustic guitars; a simultaneously sweet and sad song, like so many others on the record. "High Times" is one of the best (And few) examples of Smith knowing exactly what fits, the soft drums perfectly atmospheric. It's raw, but then again they all are, some songs located on old, buried tapes. Comparing the two CD's, neither is paticularly better or worse than the other. Each are similar in tone, with tracks ranging in quality and style. "Seen How Things are Hard", a sleigh-bell ridden slice of optimism is wildly different to "New Monkey", a song about as complex as it's title. Together, it's a great showcase of Smith's talent as a song writer and guitarist (his chord progressions sound effortless).
Lyrics — 9
Lyrically, Smith has always been triumphant and thankfully, this is album is no different. They're effective and vivid, each 2-3 minute track packing at least one emotion each. You'll laugh ("Here comes your pride and joy, the comic little drunk you call your boy" is a paticular highlight from "All Cleaned Out"), reminisce and if you have a soul, will more than likely she'd a few tears. As I previously mentioned, his death should be inconsequential in a review of his work, but his missing prescense gives each word that extra punch. Smith has previously faced criticism from some corners at the strength of his vocals, though (like on Either/or and subsequent albums) he sounds wonderful here. The only backing accompanying Smith, is of course, himself and it's this distinct simplicity that always set him apart. Fantastic.
Overall Impression — 10
After merely one listen, I was certain this was Smith's best album since Either/Or. A couple more later and I was wondering if New Moon was more. Either way, the album represents the most perfect testament to his talent and the man that many people love and care for. Easily my favourite tracks on the record are the two covers from Smith's first band proper, Heatmiser. The pair in question are "See You Later" and "Half Right", live recordings and possibly the saddest things I'll listen to for a long time. Don't let that put you off; as much as I found New Moon to be an almost heart breaking record (coming from a guy resembles the Terminator emotionally, though sadly not in physique), it's a vital listen. I dare you not to feel something as Smith almost howls "See you later, if I see you at all", tragically beautiful.