Elliott Smith

October marked the anniversary of Elliott Smith's tragic suicide -- not that his death came as a huge surprise to fans of his music. But even as bitter as Smith's songs could be going down, they always left the sweetest aftertaste of beauty and hope. From a Basement on the Hill is no different. Assembled from the heap of tape he left with his passing, it surges from upbeat folk to grungy pop, permeated with a wistfulness you can whistle to. What Basement isn't, though, is a set of clues spelling out his dramatic demise. Sure, the tracks sport titles like "Fond Farewell" and "Last Hour," and the album's name is pretty grave itself. But to ascribe some morbid significance to them would not only be kind of sick; it would sell this collection of ragged, sublimely gorgeous songs short. You don't have to molest Smith's corpse by sifting through this wreck of an album looking for some black-box recorder that might explain his end. Let the dead lie, and just enjoy. -- Jason Heller

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