There are few stories more depressing than that of Elliot Smith. The genius guitarist and songwriter was best known for his introspective and warm acoustic songs, often looking back on parts of his life in a poetic yet incredibly relatable manner.
He battled with drug addiction and depression, which led him to spiral downward toward the end of his life. After attempting rehab and other recovery methods, he eventually died in 2003 after being found with two stab wounds in his chest. A sad end to a wonderful musician who provided a plethora of beautiful tracks.
In honor of Elliot Smith, here are 10 of his best love songs!
1. Angel In The Snow
Album: New Moon
Sometimes, it’s hard to work out whether Elliot Smith was singing about his love for another or his problematic relationship with drugs. “Angel In The Snow” is one such song, as it seems to refer to both a lover he cannot get enough of, and also cocaine.
I’d prefer to think that this was a beautiful song about a special someone in his life and a message of reassurance that they will be there for each other. The harsh reality is that Smith could have easily been singing about both concepts here.
2. Say Yes
In terms of love songs, I feel this is Elliot Smith’s sweetest. In an interview, he mentioned that “Say Yes” was dedicated to a special someone he was very much in love with, and that seeps out into the beauty of this track.
While some of Smith’s songs can have a sad undertone, I feel that “Say Yes” was written at a point in his life when he was genuinely happy and in love. That brings some comfort when I think of this musician’s tragic end.
3. Place Pigalle
Album: Grand Mal: Studio Rarities
Here we have a very rare entry from Elliot Smith that only surfaced posthumously in 2006. Grand Mal: Studio Rarities was released after Smith’s death and displayed new sides of his complicated musicianship and personality; “Place Pigalle” being one of the most striking.
This song tells the story of the protagonist – presumably Smith – falling in love with a woman while he’s on holiday in a foreign country. Whether they survived moving to a long-distance relationship is uncertain, but there is a certain magic to this track that is immovable and loving.
4. Between The Bars
There’s a haunting melancholy that comes with Elliot Smith that seems fairly unmatched in “Between The Bars”. The lounge-like acoustic passages and Smith’s soothing singing create an enveloping and warm atmosphere that doesn’t always match the subject matter.
In the case of “Between The Bars”, Smith sings of both love and addiction in the same breath. He mentions a love that is deep and true and one that he cannot escape easily; the former being a woman, and the latter alcoholism. A sad story indeed for a complex soul.
Album: Elliot Smith
Here we have a different love song to the ones I’ve discussed so far. “Satellite” isn’t strictly a love song in its lyrics, but the instrumentals bring forth a calm that could only be amplified in the arms of another or a lover.
Conflictingly, however, the song seems to sing about how people are alone in every situation, even relationships. I think that brings comfort in some way, and to a degree, I agree with Elliot Smith here.
6. Seen How Things Are Hard
Album: New Moon
This is quite a difficult song to listen to by Elliot Smith. As usual, it has multiple possible meanings but it generally points towards a substance-abusing partner who the song’s protagonist is trying to help.
Despite her habits and problems, he still loves her unconditionally and tries to do anything in his power to help his lover. The instrumentals Smith chose in this track create a strange feeling of hope that perhaps, if but for a moment, love can heal all wounds.
7. In The Lost And Found (Honky Bach)
Album: Figure 8
“In The Lost And Found” sounds different from many songs by Elliot Smith. It has a heavy piano lead that has replaced the typical acoustic guitar, and some beautifully harmonic melodies joining together to create a joyous cacophony.
Put simply, this track is about falling in love and Smith captures those first feelings of romance. Its jittery nature, unpredictability, and a touch of anxiety create butterflies in your stomach and a tremble in your lips.
Despite its sweet-sounding front, “Angeles” is surprisingly dark. In it, Elliot Smith sings of his interactions with LA and how people only saw him as a money maker instead of a musician with a soul and desires.
I feel this message can be carried across many walks of life. Many different types of people and situations can suck the soul out of people, but keeping true to yourself should always be your priority. Self-love is the strongest kind of love.
9. Going Nowhere
Album: New Moon
This is my favorite song from Elliot Smith, as I feel it encapsulates everything his sound can create. A warm, yet overtly melancholic instrumental atmosphere, soothing vocals, and thoughtful lyrics paint a beautiful portrait and a glimpse into the mind of a single man.
Despite its warmth, this song is about a relationship falling apart after two people begin to drift further and further away from each other.
Finishing off the list of the 10 best Elliot Smith love songs is “Pitseleh”, a true heartbreaker and thought-provoker. It tells the story of unrequited love, and how love is a force that must be in perfect balance to be enjoyed to its fullest.
There is a constant sense of longing in this track that suggests Elliot Smith is the one who is doting on someone, and his feelings were unreciprocated. I’m sure this will be a relatable track to many, as it’s a situation that is sadly all too common.
Justin is an audio engineer with years of experience in the field. He has been creating and playing music his entire life, but he really found his passion for engineering when he was introduced to Logic Pro at age 10. Justin has spent countless hours perfecting his craft and now works as a freelance engineer out of Boston, MA.