I know I write about him a fair bit on here but there was something quite unique about Elliott Smith. Although you could tell that he'd listened to a fair bit to The Beatles and Big Star, he did something quite new with their inspiration. He found a way of twisting their source melodies into fresh shapes and taking the listener to a place where you could feel the emotional anguish that he was expressing. As much as any musician I can think of. Such is the gift of the true artist.
Tragically, he's no longer with us. But he has no lack of spiritual heirs. I hear artists and bands all the time and think, 'oh they've been listening to Elliott.' Such was the case yesterday when I made my way through Palehound's new record Black Friday.
Palehound is essentially a vehicle for Boston based singer-songwriter Ellen Kempner. She shares Smith's ingrained introversion, his insecurity, the conviction that the glass is general half empty but every so occasionally half full. There's plenty of wry wit here but also some essentially inadvisable but utterly human wallowing that occasionally achieves real beauty.
It doesn't all work. I'm not really interested that she's 'due for a shitty tattoo,' as she confides on Stick N Poke, but mostly she's pretty good company, like your slightly morose friend, who you realise is self-indulgent but still has the knack of expressing the slivers of acute intelligence you don't really get elsewhere. A lot of damn fine songs on here. I sense that Smith himself might approve.