Thursday, April 19, 2012

"R" is for Roman Candle

Roman Candle is the first album by the late singer-songwriter, whisper rock artist, Elliott Smith, who is one of my all-time favorite musicians. I was introduced to his Figure 8 album while working in a small coffee shop, fell in love with it, and sometimes played the album over and over for an entire shift. Figure 8 was his last completed album before his death in 2003, so I worked my way backwards through his discography.

Elliott Smith was a true tragic artist, created brilliant music, and was deeply haunted in his personal life. He was an exceptional guitarist and proficient in five more instruments. His music is often melancholy and emotional, his guitar work intricate and sweet, and his melodies and harmonies can change my moods instantly. Many of his lyrics are depressing, but I don't feel depressed listening to him.

Elliott's biggest mainstream success came with his musical role in Good Will Hunting. The movie had several of his songs in it, Angeles in its entirety, and an original song, Miss Misery, which was up for an Oscar for best original song. He performed at the Oscars and lost to Celine Dion for her song in Titanic (tough year).

Like I said, he is a truly tragic artist like Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. He was clinically depressed, didn't handle fame and criticism well, and suffered from alcoholism and drug abuse. He died in 2003 from two stab wounds to the chest; and the autopsy report was inconclusive to whether it was suicide or murder. He was reportedly doing well at that time, but he had admitted to attempting suicide several times before.

Condor Ave. is a song from Roman Candle, from 1994, the beginning of Elliott Smith's solo career and a great example of what I love about his music.

I debated about using this recording of Angeles, but decided to go with it because it's so raw, showing how emotional he was about his music, how fragile he was as an artist, yet still incredibly talented. He messes up and doesn't want to continue the song. But he does finish...and finishes strong. It's far from a perfect performance, but extraordinarily memorable to me in how I look at art and artists.


  1. Loved the post, it seems many of the greats in the music world so successsful as they were in their profession was tormented my a not so good private life,
    Loved the music.

  2. When he messed up the song and cursed I laughed and when he continued it brought a tear to my eye because it was so beautiful but now he's gone.
    Great post. Thanks for sharing that.

  3. So sad when artists are messed up like this. Life's too short, right? Great post.

  4. He's not an artist I've listened to but I do know of his music. Tough year to go up against anything related to Titanic.

  5. The name did not ring a bell for me, but then I remembered the music from Good Will Hunting. Beautiful work. It's very said how often great artists struggle with these demons.

  6. He's beautiful! I hate to say this but, maybe the tragedy in these artist's lives adds to the brilliance of their work.

    Anyway, this was a great post.

  7. Yvonne, yeah, it's like a gift and a curse.

    Heather, it was so powerful.

    Mina, I agree.

    Alex, yeah, there was no chance. Most other years and he would have won hands down.

    Julie, so true.

    Archna, it does seem that was a lot of the time. Sad, but maybe that's what they were put here to do.

  8. Haven't heard of him before...maybe I'll have to go watch Good Will Hunting again.


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