Elliott Smith’s “Either/Or” is an Essential Album, Even 25 Years Later


Fia Cooper

I would rate Elliott Smith’s “Either/Or” album an 8 out of 10 — although it is not the most innovative album, it does not fail to do its job in an incredible way.

Isaac Brown, Staff Reporter

Elliott Smith released his third studio album “Either/Or” on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 1997. 25 years later, this album is still a popular piece of history and his brilliancy was highlighted by this album.

His previous work featured the rough, raw, and emotional style that he did best, but this album best showcases the genius of his work.

Smith was a local Portland artist who was famed for his tender emotion, and his work has been included in movies like “Good Will Hunting” and “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

His style consists of simple four-track recordings with beautiful guitar and untouched vocals.

Although very simple, his music is impressively complex. Smith’s “Either/Or” is widely regarded as his best album — a 37-minute long studio album filled with variety. 

The album changes pace throughout the 12 tracks, with a flow of songs that keeps the listener excited and on their toes.

Tracks such as “Speed Trials” and “Pictures of Me” are full of upbeat drums and guitar, with a more playful and lively sound that compliments the heavy emotions felt throughout the listen. 

Slower tracks like “No Name No. 5” and “2:45 AM” are much more deep and depressing. Their pace takes a step back in order to bring the full complexity of the lyrics to the forefront.

We also hear quite a bit about Portland throughout the album. The track “Rose Parade” is a perfect example of how profound Portland’s culture was for Smith.

Due to the subject matter of his songs, the album is well built with its simplicity and is incredibly relevant today. Smith’s lyrics talk about addiction, heartbreak, and just simply not fitting in — things which have been highlighted even more by today’s world of social media.

It is clear Smith’s lyrics aren’t always from his own perspective, and the genius of his songwriting does not fall short on this album.

While there is not much variety in song structure, the album fills the listener with waves of emotions. Smith communicates emotions so well through his music, so it’s easy to look past the lack of variety in his songs.

“No Name No. 5” is my favorite track on the album, but I love every song on the album. I would rate this album an 8 out of 10, and would highly recommend it. Although it is not the most innovative album, it does not fail to do its job in an incredible way.