On XO, Elliott Smith leaves the indie doldrums behind and takes wing to new, lush surroundings. By adding full instrumentation to his acoustic reveries, Smith has ascended to a new level of songwriting that shores up his gentle voice and country-tinged guitar playing with extra layers of vocal arrangements and charming piano vamps. Strains of classic rock filter into the Beatlesque "Baby Britain" and the Beach Boys-inspired "I Didn't Understand," but Smith succeeds in adapting them to his style rather than the other way around. A foot soldier in DreamWorks' war on standard-issue rock & roll, Smith joins new label mates Rufus Wainwright and Morphine as sophisticated interpreters of the new male psyche. XO is a stunning shadow print of a soul adrift in the music industry, a dark place indeed. --Lois Maffeo
XO ... features [Elliott Smith's] most adventurous music ever, opening up his acoustic flow with piano, horns, vocal overdubs, even a string section. -- Rolling Stone
XO is Smith's major-label debut, and instead of opting to become the new Richard Marx for the occasion--something that might have suited him--he's chosen idiosyncratic new Domino signings Quasi as his backing band. Compared with the sparseness of his debut "Roman Candle," even that's a commercial extravagance--piano, brass and flute plumping up these skinny songs like a shot of steroids. -- New Musical Express
Even though he's a master melodist, he's too modest to shove his tunes in your face; they just hang around like stray dogs shown kindness for the first time.
For better and sometimes for worse, Smith ... gives voice to his generation's romantic cynicism and diminished expectations. -- Entertainment Weekly
Modestly dramatic musical shifts ... push XO leaps and bounds beyond his previous work.... Smith's orchestral maneuvers compose a flowery pop symphony. From the choral-like harmonies ... to the richly textured ambience of Baby Britain... Smith recalls the best of the late-era Beatles, Badfinger and the Zombies. -- No Depression
With his unusual gift for melody amid a melody-poor generation of rockers, Mr. Smith may be the most fully formed singer-songwriter to come along since Elvis Costello.... -- The New York Times
[Elliott Smith's] beautifully orchestrated pop radiates a humming energy, countering a breathy, anemic voice that perfectly conveys ... intimate and morose sentiments.... -- USA Today