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

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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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #897,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Larry Crane on April 6, 2009
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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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jason Li on April 12, 2009
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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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Brandon Vosika on February 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Cole on December 27, 2010
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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Format: Paperback
Elliott Smith was a musician and songwriter everyone who loves music should listen to. If you’ve never heard his music before, rather than recommend entire albums, have a listen to the following songs: “Miss Misery”, “Say Yes”, “I Figured You Out”, “Needle in the Hay”, “Between the Bars” and “Angeles” – incredible, right? And if you’re already familiar with his music, you’ll know how unique he was as a talent. Unfortunately Smith killed himself in 2003 at the age of 34 after a lifetime of depression and numerous problems with addiction. His legacy of music will live on forever though, especially his 1998 album, XO.

Rather than focus on the gossipy side of Smith’s life like his drug/alcohol problems and his preoccupation with suicide, Matthew LeMay has chosen, very commendably, to focus on the art itself. Addiction in itself isn’t that interesting, especially in comparison to great art, and Smith himself wasn’t interested in expressing it in his music, looking upon the kind of self-pitying naval-gazing such song-writing celebrates as repulsively shallow.

This is the third 33 1/3 book I’ve read, the series which looks at and discusses seminal albums in bite-sized, dinky paperbacks. In The Pixies’ Doolittle, we see one of the most influential rock bands ever creating their best album and catch up with the band 20+ years later to discuss what the album meant and means to them. In The Beatles’ Let It be, we see the greatest band of all time in their last days but still producing amazing music, with that entire time period providing a fascinating story filled with many strong characters.

XO has no such compelling story. Smith was out of rehab (not for the last time) and was clean, throwing himself into his work, producing some of the finest music of his life.
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