Elliott Smith’s major label debut, XO, and his final studio album, Figure 8, have just been reissued on vinyl. These classic albums are available on standard weight black vinyl with faithfully replicated original artwork and sleeves. Both albums are also available in limited colored vinyl editions exclusively on UDiscover Music. Limited to 500 copies worldwide, XO will be pressed on black and white marbled vinyl while Figure 8’s two LPs will feature LP1 on clear vinyl and LP2 on white.
XO signified a major evolution for Smith and a critical turning point in his career, away from the lo-fi indie folk confessionals laid bare on his previous three albums and toward a more stereophonic, full band sound. XO was released August 25, 1998, just a few months after Smith was reluctantly thrust into the spotlight with a life-changing performance at the Academy Awards for his Oscar-nominated song, the Good Will Huntingcloser, “Miss Misery.” With the backing and resources of his new label DreamWorks Records and the help of producer team Rob Schnapf and Tom Rothrock, Smith embraced his opportunity to create a lush, ambitious, and beautifully complex album unlike anything he had done before. XO found Smith coloring his introspective acoustic songs, still filled with understated melodies and barbed one-liners, with shades of rich, Beatlesque production, string-laden baroque pop and spirited rock.
Following the breakout success of XO, Smith again teamed up with producers Rob Schnapf and Tom Rothrock for his Technicolor follow up, Figure 8, released April 18, 2000 on DreamWorks. The album was recorded throughout 1998-2000 at several studios including Sunset Sound and Capitol Studios in Los Angeles and Smith’s musical temple, Abbey Road Studios in London, where Smith used the piano that The Beatles used to record “Fool On The Hill.” Unlike XO’s major shift from the albums that came before it, Figure 8 continued Smith’s penchant for ambitious arrangements but took them into even bigger, bolder and sometimes weirder territory.
Rolling Stone praised the album, saying, “Like its predecessor, Figure 8 is full of modern chamber pop, mixing in keyboards, strings and studio flourishes on melodically simple, yet structurally complex songs. ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ and ‘I Better Be Quiet Now’ hearken back to the bare acoustic setting of Smith’s first solo albums, while jangly opener ‘Son of Sam’ and the rainy-day rocker ‘Junk Bond Trader’ sound like long-lost radio singles.” The AV Club enthused, “Figure 8 is even better, a strong collection of lush, densely arranged power-pop (‘Son Of Sam,’ ‘Junk Bond Trader’) and inimitably intimate ballads (‘Somebody That I Used To Know,’ ‘Easy Way Out’),” adding the album “never breaks from delivering Smith’s songs with ornate elegance and a sublime mastery of pop hooks.” Rolling Stone placed Figure 8 on their list of the 100 greatest albums of the decade and it was included in the book “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.”
Figure 8’s iconic cover was shot by photographer Autumn DeWilde in front of a mural in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Silver Lake, where Smith lived. Upon Smith’s death in 2003 it became a makeshift memorial and gathering place for grieving fans. Although altered over time, the mural continues to stand as an unofficial landmark for the acclaimed and beloved musician.