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Musical Pairings: Elliott Smith – Either/Or (paired with green beans with paprika and sea salt)

July 26th, 2010

Some great recipes are complex and nuanced, and some great recipes are simpler but every bit as tasty.  Green beans with smoked paprika and sea salt clearly fall in to that latter category, but that doesn’t make this recipe any less fun than a recipe with ten times as many ingredients.  In fact, sometimes it can be delicious to discover a new way to put together simple, traditional ingredients in a way that still feels new and exciting.  This is true for music, too.  For example, most of the songs on Elliott Smith’s Either/Or consist of little more than a sparse drum set, acoustic guitar or piano, and Smith’s vocals.  Indeed, every instrument on Either/Or album was performed by Smith himself.  Nonetheless, the fantastic collection of songs compiled here couldn’t be more breathtakingly beautiful if there had been a gifted supporting band and lush instrumentation.  Indeed, Either/Or proved that Smith was unparalleled in his ability to craft simple, unadorned pop masterpieces.

I’ve heard people dismiss Elliott Smith’s music as “sad bastard music.”  And, sure, Smith’s whispered, confessional lyrics are very clearly drenched with a deep melancholy.  Still, on each and every track on Either/Or Smith demonstrates an uncanny ability to wring clever hooks and bright, catchy pop melodies from that heartbreak.  For example, Smith’s lyrics on “Between the Bars” (“Drink up, baby, stay up all night / The things you could do, you won’t but you might / The potential you’ll be that you’ll never see”) are filled with desperation and fear, and yet the song’s captivating melody shimmers beautifully.  The track “Angeles” features a similar juxtaposition of the haunting and lovely.  Indeed, Either/Or still sounds fresh and alluring over a decade after it was originally released.  Buy it at Insound.

Elliott Smith – Between The Bars

Head back to eating/sf to read Kasey’s recipe for green beans with paprika and sea salt.