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Elliott Smith's XO (33 1/3 series) Paperback – April 1, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The case is skillfully put forward that [Smith] wasn't all gloom, but a studious musical perfectionist." Record Collector
(Jake Kennedy)

"...the 33 1/3 series are a fascinating and revealing collection of books. Written by music fans for music fans, this series will never grow old, never grow boring, and goes far into explaining the mysticism and appeal behind these priceless bodies of work, for your own personal pleasure or just in case you happen to know someone who just doesn't understand."
Webcuts Music, 2009


The case is skillfully put forward that [Smith] wasn't all gloom, but a studious musical perfectionist." Record Collector
(Sanford Lakoff)

"...the 33 1/3 series are a fascinating and revealing collection of books. Written by music fans for music fans, this series will never grow old, never grow boring, and goes far into explaining the mysticism and appeal behind these priceless bodies of work, for your own personal pleasure or just in case you happen to know someone who just doesn’t understand."
Webcuts Music, 2009

About the Author

Matthew LeMay has been a staff writer at Pitchfork Media since 2000. His band, Get Him Eat Him, will release their second album in the summer of 2007. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 142 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (April 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826429009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826429001
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.4 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #462,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I was allowed to fact check and was interviewed for this book and I feel it's one of the better things to come out about my friend. The second half, examining Elliott's portrayal in the media, is a great "setting the record straight" for this amazing artist.
-Larry Crane, Archivist for the Estate of Elliott Smith/recording engineer/producer
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Format: Paperback
XO is one of my favorite albums, and after reading this book, I am able to appreciate it in a new, deeper and more nuanced way. Lemay strategically employs Smith's own words, whether it be in an interview or in his lyrics, to steer us to an interpretation of XO that seems closer to what Smith had originally intended. (Larry Crane's review above affirms this idea.)

The book is split into two parts: Part one is a guided tour of the subtleties buried within XO (both lyrical and musical). Part two is about why we, as listeners, should free ourselves from the romanticized yet simplistic image of Smith painted by the popular press.

Both parts are extremely well researched and it shows: Lemay has amassed and analyzed quite a back catalog of Elliott Smith demos, live shows, interviews, reviews, on top of having conducted his own interviews with Smith's friends/collaborators.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wishes to enjoy this album more, and to understand Elliott Smith as a human being who is more than just a "sad guy singing sad songs."
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First off, let me say that i am a huge fan of all Elliott Smith's albums. And usually i really enjoy the 33 1/3 line of books.

So naturally, i thought i was going to really enjoy reading this book. I'm very sad to say though, that i didn't.

In comparison to other books of 33 1/3 that i have read, there is VERY little interview/ fact based stuff in this book. and very little about the process of writing or recording XO. it really is mostly what the author thinks about the album and everything else. his opinion.

What this book is made up of, essentially, is a bit on Elliott Smith around the time the XO was made, a lot on what the author thinks Smith's lyrics 'mean' and then some on how he first heard of Smith, how Smith's music effected his life.. things like that.

Being a musician and writer myself, i'm just so damn tired of people taking lyrics and breaking them down. down. down again. - analyzing everything. it might be hard for some people to believe but sometimes the words
musicians sing aren't a cryptic code that needs to be cracked.

I'm surly not saying that Simth's lyrics aren't amazing because i think that they are. and they deserve to be heard and felt. But what i am saying is that i did not enjoy reading page after page of a random guy picking apart, quite literally, every single lyric on the XO album (including the B-side songs).
This author has had no connection to Smith. he talks in the book about not even really liking Elliott Smith or XO until about 2006. i can't help ask myself the question, 'why is he writing this book?'
Some of what he said i agreed with, some i didn't. some of what he said was obvious, some was vague. it was just kind of boring. But more so, it felt a bit pointless to read this book.
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Format: Paperback
I am a long-time Elliott Smith fan and was looking forward to a peek into how this great album came into existence. What I got however, was a song-by-song overview comprised of the author's interpretations of the lyrics. This would have been less problematic if the end result didn't come across so much like a college freshman trying to meet a length requirement for an essay, not to mention the fact that the late Smith's lyrics do a very good job speaking for themselves.

There are some nice quotes from Larry Crane and other outside interviews and I enjoyed the time taken to track the evolution of certain lyrics, but overall I came away feeling I know very little about the process of making the record, which is a shame.
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interesting look at what went into the various ES favorites in the studio......recommended for ES fans who are musicians
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is one of the best books available on Elliot Smith. If you are a fan then you probably own the very excellent XO. ( My friend Emily who owns a Record Store calls it her favorite E.S. Record) The author discusses the circumstances surrounding the making of XO and also discusses each song from the album in a most intelligent, interesting, introspective, yet objective way. In addition, in Part Two of the book, LeMay delves into who the late Elliot Smith really was and exposes some of the common misconceptions surrounding the Artist. After reading this very well written book, I have gained a new appreciation for XO and am hearing it and enjoying it in a new and beautiful light.
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While I did enjoy this book, I didn't find it to be a very exciting of interesting book to read. I'm not sure if the author is an actual author, but this felt like a term paper, very factual and to the point. I've read other 33 1/3's that exposed interesting things about the recording process, or aspects of the songs that I never noticed, but this didn't really do that for me, and that's coming from an enormous Elliot fan. That being said, it is thorough and if you really are interested in Elliot Smith and his work, this certainly wouldn't hurt to read.
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