Monday, January 12, 2009

"Between the Bars" - Elliott Smith (either/or)

Between the Bars - quintessential guitar and voice ballad (though there are at least two guitars here, and there's some kind of organ towards the end). Robbed of almost all the techniques and tools one would normally use to build a song, how does one pull off the feat?

Option 1: Battle depression, alcoholism, and heroin addiction; turn to music as the only possible expression of your own humanity, each song you write and record a tiny, tiny scream into the vast void of an unfeeling universe; realize upon attaining commercial success that now that everyone can hear you, no one is actually listening.

Option 2: Fake it.

Technically, he does what he does--layering voices and guitars in such a way that it still sounds like there's only one of each. Both elements super up-front in the recording. You're in the same room with him, right next to him even, and he's whispering his song to you. One perfect, memorable line: "People that you've been before that you don't want around any more." Everything about the construction of the song is easily repeatable by anyone else except for, you know, the actual deeply personal and profoundly heartbreaking expression behind it.

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