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XO

4.8 out of 5 stars 191 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 25, 1998
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Sublime 1998 album featuring "Waltz # 2" & "Bled White"

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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
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 25, 1998)
  • Original Release Date: August 25, 1998
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Geffen
  • ASIN: B00000AEF9
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (191 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,125 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
The first album I ever heard of Elliot Smith was from the movie "Keeping the Faith." It was his song "pitseleh", from his album XO. This was enough to make me go out and buy the album, and I have yet to be disappointed.
There are two things that make this musician stand out in a crowd. First comes his incredible music. His harmonic textures and rhythmic off-beating constantly combine to create a much needed breath of fresh air in this bubblegum pop world. I didn't realize how tired I was of the same old songs (and the same boring song form, ABA) until I listened to Elliot, and found his songs so beautiful in their difference. Second, his lyrics are extremely beautiful and very well crafted. This is not easy pop with lyrics that don't mean anything important (or are already familiar because they say the exact same thing as every other pop band). Elliot tackles hard subjects such as depression and lonliness, and yet can balance it out with a song about personal change from something ugly into something beautiful ("independence day").
So it comes to this: though it's not quite polished, and can sometimes be a bit inscrutable, Elliot Smith's music is profound nonetheless. XO is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of this and well worth anything you pay for it.
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Format: Audio CD
Perhaps the best thing about "XO" is that we get to see Elliott Smith very clearly demonstrating the true range and depth of his talent. As amazing as "Roman Candle," "Elliott Smith," and "Either/or" are--and indeed, they are my favorite Elliott Smith albums--those albums require the listener to truly immerse himself in the music; special attention needs to be paid to all the quiet subtleties, or else much of the beauty and uniqueness can be lost. Smith's earlier albums require a desire on the listener's part to let the music bloom in all its glory; "XO" blossoms on first listen.

"XO" clearly stands out from Smith's previous work, simply based on how much production went into the album; no one could ever accuse "Roman Candle," "Elliott Smith," or "Either/or" of being over-produced. But I also think it would be a mistake to call "XO" overproduced. The rawness and urgency of Smith's music are not glossed over, which is generally what is meant when an album is accused of being overproduced. Instead, Smith's increased resources allow him to bring layers to his music that highlight--rather than detract from--the heart of his songs.

Songs such as "Waltz #1" and "Oh Well, Okay" demonstrate this point perfectly. These songs have all the lyrical and musical integrity and richness of Smith's earlier work, yet he simply could not have produced them earlier, particularly in the case of "Waltz #1." In spirit, however, these two songs--as well as the majority of the album--are a perfect continuation of Smith's work. That they are "fuller" songs, at least musically, allows Smith's talent to be more open and upfront, yet they still retain a certain quietness and subtlety.

Several songs stand out as noticeably different from Smith's earlier work, however.
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Format: Audio CD
Did this guy know how to write catchy hooks or what? Did this guy have a PROFOUND sense of melody and harmony or what?

I suppose I'd heard Elliott Smith at one time or another, possibly took note when watching The Royal Tennenbaums. But I really didn't know who this guy was until recently. I started hearing his name again and again though I can't recall where.

Now, I've been buying and playing music for about 36 years - my first Lp purchase was The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. My tastes range from the Fab Four to Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, King Crimson, Nick Drake, John Martyn, Tom Waits and so on. I like just about anything as long as it comes from the heart.

But I digress. I finally got around to purchasing an Elliott Smith CD - XO. Oh I agonized over whether to buy it, I'd never heard the guy, should I spend the 15 bucks on a guy I've never even heard or play it safe and buy that U2 collection?

Wow!!! I am so glad I purchased this CD! There is not one stinker track, it's all very skilled, wonderfully executed song writing. This is one of the best sessions I have ever heard, it is worth every penny! Don't agonize over it - Buy it! In a way, I'm glad I didn't discover Elliott Smith before he died, I would have been heartbroken. Waltz #1 is one of the most poinantly beautiful things these ears have ever heard and then it's followed by the rocker Amity - somehow it works. Elliot really was amazing!

Everytime I listen to XO I think I have picked a favorite track, then on the next listen it's a new favorite track and then on the next listen... and so it goes.

Don't just just sit there! Start clicking, buy it!
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Format: Audio CD
After listening to Roman Candle I went out and bought XO, Figure 8 and Either/Or on the same day. Since I've spent the last week listening to the bunch of them non-stop, I can say this: XO is an excellent record - but not quite as excellent as the ones on either side of it.
To me, this record feels like R.E.M.'s "Monster" or Archer Prewitt's "White Sky," a transition record setting the scene for something greater. There're a lot of great songs on here, and they're full of all of Smith's trademarks; even the simplest phrases ("She looks so composed/So she is, I suppose") are cleverly delivered and beautiful in their simplicity. But there're also a lot of over-production which relies too much on the arrangement and not enough on the quiet passion or feeling which makes Elliott Smith the man. People here are saying that Elliott Smith is like the new Nick Drake, but Drake would never have produced a song like "Baby Britain," which is campy and unconvincing, even as though it's fun and has a neat-o harpsichord accent in the bridge. He hits the mark on songs like "Tomorrow, Tomorrow" or "Pitseleh," and I really like "Independence Day," but songs like "Amity" leave you feeling like you've just heard a B-side or an experiment, not a finished track. They're more produced than his other songs, but there's something lacking in the delivery or the songwriting. When Smith's not as his very, very best, he gets smothered under all his production. Sometimes it's lovely, as on "Bled White," but sometimes it's unnecessary, as on "Amity."
All the greatness-that-could-have-been on XO is realized on Figure 8, a real five-star record. I say, buy Figure 8 or one of Smith's earlier records before you buy XO. I listen to this CD all the time, but I listen to the others more, and I care about them more, too. I'd lend XO to a friend, I'd keep the others to myself.
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