Twenty years ago, Elliott Smith opened a door into a hypnotic new world. The album “Either/Or,” released on Kill Rock Stars, 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.
Last March, we sat down with Smith’s friends, peers, and a live studio audience to talk about “Either/Or” and Smith’s legacy.
Smith’s ultra-reflective songwriting and well-honed recording style represent an apex of the DIY sound that made Portland’s name during its intensely fertile 1990s. His music continues to inspire people like Frank Ocean, Ben Gibbard, Wayne Coyne and many others.
How is it that an artist whose inner life was so tumultuous put together some of the most meticulously-crafted music to come out of Portland? And what memories does “Either/Or” preserve of a time before Portland’s turn in the national spotlight, when creative people came to follow their inner voices?
- Larry Crane of Jackpot Recording Studio was a longtime friend and collaborator and has assumed the role of archivist of Smith’s catalogue. He tells us about what he’s observed of the record through the years, leading up to the re-release of a re-mastered, extended edition of “Either/Or.”
- Slim Moon, founder of Kill Rock Stars, worked with Smith to release two studio records, including “Either/Or.” The label also shepherded the release of some posthumous material. Moon’s perspective puts Smith in the context of a constellation of regional and national artists of the time.
Loving Covers By
- Luz Elena Mendoza and Ali Clarys (Y La Bamba, Tiburones): “Speed Trials” - 00:10
- Catherine Feeny + band: “Between the Bars” - 13:31
- Amit Erez (The Secret Sea): “Angeles” [15:51] and “Southern Belle” [26:03]
- Matt Drenik: “2:45 AM” - 32:08
- Sean Croghan: “Alameda” - 39:30
Watch all of the performances below.