Figure 8 (DreamWorks)
Johanna Samuels: The task of picking only one album felt impossible. I refrained from choosing any Beatles records as they should go without saying. I have probably 15 ever-changing favorite records. Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon and Blue, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, The Beach Boys’ Surf’s Up and Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks are big ones for me. I chose to write about Figure 8 by Elliott Smith.
While it’s very much an artifact of the 2000’s, I find it stands the test of time. It changed my life upon first listening to it in its entirety at the age of 14 (at a headphone listening station in Blockbuster Music). This was my introduction to Elliott’s music. The record has continued to see me through life’s expansions and contractions, shedding light, levity and musical inspiration for me in every chapter. The record is wonderful cover to cover. It’s chock full of human fingerprints, detail and intention while remaining lush, celebratory and heartbreaking all at the same time.
Elliott’s musicality and melodic sense struck a profound and stirring chord with me as a teen. Since finding the record—now 20 years ago—it has continued to propel my deep hunger for making music. His lyrics are honest and inimitable. My favorite track is “Happiness.” It culminates in the refrain: “What I used to be; Will pass away; And then you’ll see; That all I want now; Is happiness for you and me.” In my opinion that’s as meaningful as the last lines of Abbey Road.
Johanna Samuels Digs Elliott Smith: Johanna Samuels’ album Bystander is out June 23. The “Golden Gate” single is out now.
Editor’s note: The disclaimer below refers to advertising posts and does not apply to this or any other editorial stories. LA Weekly editorial does not and will not sell content.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.