Entertainment

Every Song on the Elliott Smith Tribute Album, Ranked from Least to Most Melancholy

Hey, Someone Had to Do It...

By Sam Eichner
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Last week, indie label American Laundromat released a tribute album for the singer/songwriter Elliott Smith, featuring covers from the likes of Yuck, Amanda Palmer and Sun Kil Moon.

The compilation elucidates the beautiful, painstaking clarity with which Smith, who died in 2003, articulated a host of emotions: heartbreak, desperation, anger, hopelessness, love. His sad songs were never sappy, yet vocalized with the timbre of a man who has a lump perpetually lodged in his throat.

To revisit Smith now is to be reminded that the best folk music isn’t all stomping and clapping and beards and togetherness—it has a dark edge, too. And it may very well make you frown. Like, really, really frown.

Which is why, in the interest of steeling your resolve, I’ve spent the weekend listening to Say Yes! A Tribute to Elliott Smith to determine the Melancholy Quotient™ of each song, on a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears.”

It’s totally useless. And yet, totally worthwhile.

Here goes something...

15. “Condor Ave”
Artist: Jesu/Sun Kil Moon
Track: 11
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “Inputting Elliot Smith’s feelings into a computer that outputs an emotionless stream of Lou Reed–like sprechgesang.”

14. “Bled White”
Artist: Yuck
Track: 6
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “A big ball of anger that’s actually sadness that’s really confusing, okay?”

13. “Division Day”
Artist: Lou Barlow
Track: 13
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “The swelling in your chest during the end credits of a particularly rueful indie movie.”

12. “Oh Well, Okay”
Artist: Adam Franklin
Track: 10
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “Oh well, okay.”

11. “Pictures of Me”
Artist: Amanda Palmer
Track: 3
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “Screaming at your reflection in the mirror until your voice grows hoarse.”

10. “Needle in the Hay”
Artist: Juliana Hatfield
Track: 5
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “Inexplicably sobbing, then sort of laughing to cover it up, as if you’ve realized whatever you were crying about is actually hilarious, even though it totally isn’t.”

9. “Waltz #2”
Artist: J Mascis
Track: 4
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “Staring out the window of a gray coach bus as the rain falls and the drab silhouette of the city passes you by...”

8. “Angeles”
Artist: Waxahatchee
Track: 12
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “A cold embrace after a breakup.”

7. “Between the Bars”
Artist: Tanya Donelly
Track: 1
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “Heart-wrenching nostalgia for those cliché make-out sessions in your parents’ station wagon.”

6. “Miss Misery”
Artist: Tomo Nakayama
Track: 8
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “The hollowness of an empty Motel 6 bedroom.”

5. “Waltz #1”
Artist: Escondido
Track: 9
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “The sound of someone wailing.”

4. “Easy Way Out”
Artist: Wild Sun
Track: 15
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “Watching your Dad, who never cries, even during, like, really eventful moments in your life or the movie Click, shed a single tear.”

3. “Say Yes”
Artist: William Fitzsimmons
Track: 7
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “William Fitzsimmons.”

2. “The Ballad of Big Nothing”
Artist: Julien Baker
Track: 2
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “Flooding the giant chasm of your small, meaningless existence with sorrow.”

1. “No Name #3”
Artist: Caroline Says
Track: 14
On a scale of “really, I’m okay” to “a puddle of tears,” it’s: “As if a snowball rolled through the world collecting all of its sadness before melting inside your heart.”

Sam Eichner likes literature, reality television and his twin cats equally. He has consistently been told he needs a shave since he started growing facial hair.

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