Gem of the Week: “Between The Bars”-Elliott Smith


Song: “Between The Bars”

Artist: Elliott Smith

Album: Either/Or (1997)

The mark Elliott Smith left on the world was an uncontested kind of sad; a medicinal one at that. Until his abrupt death in 2003, the singer-songwriter notoriously penned songs for the lonely and jaded demographic, stringing together delicate, alt rock riffs with poetic contemplation. His three most glorified projects, Either/OrXO, and Figure 8 together form the ultimate indie-grief trilogy, a handful of notable tracks comprising the somber score for the Academy Award-winning film, Good Will Hunting (1997). 

His studio album from the same year, Either/Or, pegs classic-status for its listenability and comfortingly lonely effect: a quality beautifully grasped by Smith and accompanying lo-fi slur of weepy guitar. The theme is soothing to the masses, revolving around deep heartache and loner-to-loner consolation. And while Smith’s melodies melt into the ears via six-string quietude and fairly basic percussion, they bear a heaviness almost antithetical to their otherwise instrumentally basic setting.

“Between The Bars” is Elliott at his most bare-all and love-bruised; the soft-voiced indie rocker settles you down with a warm vulnerability that gently aches the heart with Smith’s shy, alt rock drear. Over a lightly picked acoustic, he hums sweet-nothings to a lover; ones that—despite their affection–seem unheard: (“Drink up with me now, forget all about the pressure of days, do what I say/ And I’ll make you okay, drive them away/ The image is stuck in your head…”).

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