Personnel: Elliott Smith (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano).
Audio Mixers: Elliott Smith; Joanna Bolme; Rob Schnapf; Tom Rothrock.
Recording information: Heatmiser House; Joanna's House; Laundry Rules; My House; The Shop; Undercover Inc.
Photographers: Debbie Pastor; Joanna Bolme.
This singer/songwriter can say more with a whisper than most folks can with a scream. The gently insinuating despair of Smith's work communicates volumes about the heartbreak and alienation that is the bane of 20th century boys with too much time on their hands. Smith's day job fronting the aggressive post-punk band Heatmiser provides him with the necessary yang to produce the quiet, evocative yin of his solo work.
On EITHER/OR, Smith observes a production ethic that retains a lo-fi looseness without sacrificing any sonic clarity. His songs of loss and loneliness have the broken-poet aura of Smog or Mark Eitzel, but he offsets the gloom with a hatful of damnably catchy melodies and progressions, turning suffering into pop and making it signify.
Spin (9/99, p.156) - Ranked #73 in Spin Magazine's "90 Greatest Albums of the '90s."
Spin (3/97, pp.102-104) - 7 (out of 10) - "...ranges from low-fi sparseness to rock with a melodicism Smith's band Heatmiser has yet to match....Though the harrowing heroin tales of Smith's last album are gone, his frequent alcoholidays suggest a less outwardly tortured Mark Eitzel..."
Uncut (p.114) - 4 stars out of 5 - "EITHER/OR took the small arranging step needed to turn Smith's beautifully, harmonically sly but still then mostly self-accompanied tunes into indisputable pop."
Magnet - "[T]his is an indisputable 10-star album with no peer and no real room for improvement."
Option (5-6/97, p.128) - "...an awkward sort of prettiness that fits him well....a U-turn from the aggressive, basement minimalism of his last solo record....proving himself to be an artist of uncommon dexterity and grace."
Village Voice (2/24/98) - Ranked #20 in the Village Voice's 1997 Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll.
Mojo (Publisher) (p.65) - Ranked #24 in Mojo's "100 Modern Classics" -- "Characteristically double-tracked vocals whispered into the listener's head, revealing the confessions of a man struggling to escape an undisclosed past."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.119) - 4 stars out of 5 - "Dark surrealism with a wispy, half-there voice and an always surprising chorus."
NME (Magazine) (7/19/97, p.40) - "...Very frequently on EITHER/OR Elliott Smith...leaves you in awe at his quiet power..."
Paste (magazine) - "As is true of all great songwriters who write from a personal place, to love Elliott Smith's music is to relate to him....It's even truer now that he's gone."
Pitchfork (Website) - "[This is] the sound of Smith conjuring something far bigger than himself and coming into his own as a songwriter, arranger, and performer."