Mystery still surrounds the death of Elliott Smith. Was it his own hand that plunged a knife twice into his chest at home on Oct. 21, 2003, or someone else’s? While Smith may not have left a suicide note to clear things up, he did leave an awful lot of unreleased material — like a singer-songwriter version of rapper Tupac.
“New Moon” comprises mostly demos and outtakes from the runup to 1997’s “Either/Or,” the album that bridged Smith’s early bedroom acoustica and later full-band fare. By their nature, these are songs that he considered unfit for release on an album.
That’s not to say they’re rubbish — far from it. This double-CD collects some of the best of Smith’s innumerable leftovers: the melancholic “Angel in the Snow,” the rough-and-ready jingle-jangle of “Seen How Things Are Hard,” and “New Monkey,” which contains the (probably unintentional) innuendo “Busy shaking hands with my monkey.” Other highlights are a great cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen” and an early take on “Miss Misery” with work-in-progress lyrics. Then again, many songs really are non-starters and their exclusion would’ve made for a lean, cohesive single disc — maybe even one that stood up to Smith’s six impeccable studio albums.
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