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From a Basement on the Hill

4.5 out of 5 stars 119 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Elliott Smith has been a patron saint of the indie scene since his days helming Portland heroes Heatmiser. As a solo artist, Smith led a revolution of home four-trackers,from Beck to Cat Power, out of the bedroom and into the studio, where Smith's fondness for Beatlesque melody led to some of the most beautifully
orchestrated pop of the last decade. From A Basement On The Hill is Smith's final recording and finds Smith returning to an edgier, guitar-driven sound, alongside his trademark heart-rending balladry. From a Basement on the Hill was originally released on October 19, 2004 on ANTIRecords and is now proudly re-issued by Kill Rock Stars--now home of all of Elliott's indie releases.
Elliott had been working on the record at the time of his death. Elliott's family hired producer Rob Schanpf (Either/Or, XO, Figure 8) and Joanna Bolme to mix and produce the album.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 6, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Kill Rock Stars
  • ASIN: B0037RBVG0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,665 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
There's obviously a certain amount of buzz surrounding this record. It's been a full four years since the release of Elliott's last studio album, Figure 8, and practically since that time, fans have been clamoring for the follow up. Rumors of Mr Smith releasing a defining work - the White Album of his time - began to surface. There were whispers of a double-disc release, an epic masterpiece unlike anything in his back catalouge. And of course the biggest bucket of gasoline on the fire was the artist's death under dubious circumstances 363 days before the album sees the light of day.

In the wake of that tragedy, Rob Schnapf - a former producer and collaborator of Elliott's who worked with him on the masterful Either/Or - and Joanna Bolme - another collaborator in a similar fashion, as well as an ex-girlfriend - worked together to piece the completed tracks into a posthumous release. The result stands as a 15 song, single-CD collection that isn't quite the godsend it was rumored to be, but certainly stands with the best work of a very talented songwriter.

Were one to listen to Smith's six albums in order, there's a certain entropic element in the musical progression (not to mention that each record gets progressively longer - this clocks in just shy of an hour - six minutes longer than Figure 8 and nearly twice as long as Smith's solo debut Roman Candle. But I digress). From A Basement on the Hill continues in that tradition, as is evident right from the bombastic opening of 'Coast to Coast.' A spooky string ensemble gives way to a distorted and percussive bombast, typical of the harder-edged songs on this album.
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Format: Audio CD
I'm really not prone to entertaining myself with 2nd guessing what Elliott Smith's eventual intentions were for these songs. I'm also not interested in analyzing the production. What I can tell you is that BASEMENT has exceeded my expectations. Like all his best work, I'm finding it a real chore getting it out of my cd player.

"Coast To Coast" starts off with this distorted orchestra & then bursts into a wall of sound. Starting things off on an uncharacteristically, aggressive note. I think the heart of this album can best be summed up in what I find to be it's most addictive track, "King's Crossing". "This is the place where time reverses/and where dead men talk to all the pretty nurses". Or more simply, "cos' I took my own insides out". For a night on the town, presumably? Good one, Elliott.

There's not much for real fans to be upset about here. Let alone disgusted (as I've read in some other reviews). The aching fragility of "Twilight". The perverse jauntiness of "Memory Lane". "Let's Get Lost" is an aptly beautiful place to do so. & "Last Hour" sounds like it quietly tip-toed off one of his early albums.

BASEMENT is by no means perfect. No posthumous album is going to be. But to these ears, it doesn't excactly sound all dressed up for an open casket funeral. All I can say is, the end results are a lot darker & somewhat more diverse than FIGURE 8. I've been listening to this guy ever since ROMAN CANDLE came out. EITHER/OR is one of my favorite albums of the 90's. Those catchy Beatle-sque hooks. Lonesome fingerpicking. Scathing lyrical insights. That uncanny knack for stumbling upon a universal truth & then shrugging it off. I'm sure most fans can agree on where his real strengths lie. Well, inbetween all the gushing odes of blind devotion & self-righteous outcries of disappointment, it's here waiting for you. When you get around to it. Excuse me, gotta go hit the PLAY button again.
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Format: Audio CD
Elliott Smith has long been my favorite musician. Like many Elliott fans, his music ushered me through a difficult time in my life. I've been anticipating this album for four years, and it's really odd to finally have it in my possession. 'Roman Candle' and 'Either/Or' are my two favorite albums of his, so I was a little dismayed when I heard early reviews that the new record was upbeat and a total departure from what he had previously recorded. I like the stripped down, raw nature of his first three albums. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that, though this cd is unlike anything else he has done, it is beautiful and heartfelt and thoroughly Elliott Smith. The album shares some vague similarities with 'XO' and 'Figure 8', but it is definitely its own creation. Though I am normally drawn to the simplicity of his early work, the complexity of the songs on 'From a basement on the Hill' is what I find so intriguing and lovely. For the critics who have complained that Elliott's music all sounds so similar, this album will definitely provide a compelling defense. It is too early to tell where this album will rate on my list of Elliott's music, but it's safe to say it is well worth the wait. Thank you, Elliott.
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Format: Audio CD
I remember going to see Good Will Hunting and hearing something I liked but never really looking into who it might be. Fast forward a couple of years to around 2000 when I was at my tattoo artists studio(Thanks Adam!!). He was playing something that sounded great and I asked who it was. He told me his name was Elliott Smith. Well as they say the rest is history. I picked up Either/Or, XO and Figure 8 and then eventually got his indie releases along with his earlier work with Heatmiser.
To say that Mr.Smith was a brilliant songwriter and musician would be an understatement. On every album there is something that touches a different emotion inside me as it does with many other fans and this last album is no different. From start to finish it shows just how much he still had left to offer. I'm glad to see that the powers that be saw fit to release this final chapter from someone who gave us music that would take most others ten lifetimes to create.
It's hard to give a song by song review because I love them all. Some that really stand out for me are pretty(ugly before), don't go down, strung out again, a fond farewell, memory lane, twilight, etc... I did prefer the 7" version of a distorted reality but that isn't that big of a deal in the big picture. Elliott you will always be remembered by those who love you as someone who brought beauty into the world by your music. You have touched more people then you could ever imagine.

XO
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