Had it not been for his tragically sad death, Steven Paul Smith, or Elliott Smith as he was better known to the world, would have turned 43 on August 6th. Smith has been a highly influential figure for many artists, including Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, who has said that Smith “wrote the sweetest, saddest, most gentle songs” and that “through his music, Smith had the ability to answer feelings in others that he was unable to answer in himself.”
Around the time of recording what was to be his final studio album, Smith spiraled into addiction and showed signed of paranoia. His live shows during this period were infrequent, and were more often than not performed under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. So much so to the point where audience members were shouting lyrics and guitar chords at Smith when he could not remember them himself.
Smith died under suspicious circumstances on October 21st, 2003 at the age of 34, as a result two stab wounds in the chest. His death was originally reported as suicide, but the official autopsy did not rule out the possibility of homicide.
In memory of the late Portland singer, and to the delight of Smith devotees, the record label Kill Rock Stars is to make available a collection of unreleased tracks from Smith, as well as reissue a couple of Smith’s studio albums.
The first track from their offering is an alternate version of ‘Alameda’ which in its finished form appeared on Smith’s 1997 masterpiece Either/Or, which ranks at #46 on pitchfork.com’s ‘Top Albums of the 90s.’ This version was recorded during the same sessions that yielded the album version.
Apart from a few lyric changes in the chorus – “All you’re good at now is breaking your own heart” – the harmonies and accompaniment remain just as beautifully fragile, and Smith’s voice still just as heartbreaking.
So grab a box of tissues and the nearest bottle of strong alcohol and take a listen to this new track below.
For the latest on Kill Rock Star’s Smith offerings, visit their website here.