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An Introduction To… is Kill Rock Stars’ pitch at a Elliott Smith career primer, and although one could get caught up in questioning the need for any such anthology in the download era, it is pretty fantastically difficult to fault as a collection of songs, and KRS’ intentions and target audience are clear. Ranging from Smith’s relatively spotty 1994 solo debut Roman Candle (from which only one selection appears) through to “Miss Misery,” the pivot point of his career, knowingly offered here in an early, pre-Oscar nominated incarnation, through to a few selections from New Moon, 2007’s posthumous collection of vaulted odds and ends, it’s more a testimony to the ferociously high quality of work that comprised Smith’s catalogue than any triumph of curation.
As the song selection goes, though, An Introduction To… is as tasteful and as thorough as one could reasonably demand. As you might expect, given the title and the label, it is distinctly light on material from Smith’s Dreamworks years, during which he was arguably at the peak of his powers, but it makes up for that thinness by offering up a judicious selection from Smith’s indie breakthrough, 1998’s Either/Or, as well as a few slightly rarer versions of fan favorites, like the single version of “Happiness” and a newly remastered version of 1997’s “Last Call”.
As is the way with these sorts of things, An Introduction To… will also invite the more familiar listener to play a game of soft scrutiny and reflection on what may or may not be a few sins of omission, but of course that’s not really the point. The point is that there are lots of people who haven’t yet had the occasion to discover Elliott Smith, and ultimately this gives them a chance to scratch away at the bittersweet reality of his work, at how conflicted he sounded, at how bitterly unresolved his career remains, and how every single song still somehow feels like both a confection and a dagger. — Pitchfork
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