Twenty years ago, Elliott Smith opened a door into a hypnotic world. The album, Either/Or, released on Kill Rock Stars records, marks a turning point in Smith’s transition from Portland rock journeyman to international star. This time had enormous consequences for Smith personally and professionally. But it also gave us heart-stopping music that continues to inspire fans and musicians all over the world.
For this program, we sat down with Smith’s friends, peers, and a live studio audience to talk about Either/Or and Smith’s legacy. A group of Portland musicians performed songs from Either/Or live, including “Alameda” sung by Smith’s friend and roommate in Portland, Sean Croghan (in the player above). Watch all of the performances below.
Smith’s ultra-reflective songwriting and well-honed recording style represent an apex of the DIY sound that made Portland’s name during its musically fertile 1990s. His music continues to inspire people like Frank Ocean, Ben Gibbard, Wayne Coyne, and many others. How did an artist whose inner life was so tumultuous put together some of the most meticulously crafted music to come out of Portland?
“Portland is all over those records. The city, in the ‘90s, was a mixture of beauty and grit that is so perfectly captured in those records, especially Either/Or.” — Slim Moon
“One of the goals was definitely not to remix or change it in any way. We were able to get it a little louder but that wasn’t the only goal. It was to open up details in the recording, and to look at low end, bass guitar and kick drums, and make sure they stay nice and consistent between songs and within a song. It sounds all technical but really what we’re doing is trying to open up the songs so it has more emotional impact.” — Larry Crane
Slim Moon, founder of Kill Rock Stars Records, worked with Smith to release two studio records, including Either/Or. Larry Crane of Jackpot Recording Studio was a longtime friend and collaborator, and has assumed the role of archivist of Smith’s catalogue. Crane remastered the extended edition of Either/Or for its 20th anniversary release this year. You can hear both guests’ interviews with “State Of Wonder” here. Watch all of the program’s performances below.
Audio recording and mixes: Steven Kray with Hakeem Hasworth
Editor: Jarratt Taylor
Videographers: Jarratt Taylor, Andrew Barrick, Nate Sjol
Technical Assistance: William Ward, Randy Layton, Ted Cutler
Executive Producer: David Christensen