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Heaven Adores Elliott Smith

Thomas Clark loves being calm so he can read poetry better and write better poetry.

Since Elliott Smith’s mysterious death in 2003, his music will always be steeped in a sense of nostalgia reserved for the few incredible musicians whose career ended too early. Elliott’s wistful, moving and consistently well-crafted songs are artfully delivered in the acclaimed documentary HEAVEN ADORES YOU.

A trip through the highs and lows of Elliott’s career as a musician, the film begins with Portland-based punk band Heatmiser, through the trials of fame his Oscar nomination for MISS MISERY bought to his doorstep to end with his legacy: a series of benefit shows organised by his sister Ashley Welsh. Twenty previously unreleased tracks are included set amongst interviews with insights from friends and family into his most active eras. These new pieces of music will be something extra for the experienced Elliott Smith fan while the storyline following his career will reveal the man to those who know nothing about him.

Newcomers to Elliott’s music who assume his catalogue are mainly soft-spoken love songs will be surprised to find his writing was fearless to the end. Final album ‘Figure Eight’ released in 2000 is versatile and consistently refreshing, from the aptly titled “In the Lost and Found (Honky Bach)” to the bulging surfer rock of “Stupidity Tries”; retaining the best parts of the odd/soothing tightrope walk that is evident from ‘Either/Or’ in 1997’s ‘Kill Rock Stars. This album gave us one of Elliott’s most popular tracks ‘Angeles’ with mesmerising chord-picking and heartbreaking lyrics, epitomising the sound he came to be known for. Viewers will enjoy picking up The Beatles influence in Elliott’s style, which came through in bits in pieces during his whole career. Far from thoughtless imitation, the sound indicates an understanding of how to make unusual chord progressions work well for a memorable tune. 

The pure reminiscent cinematography lain over the film’s music is a chance to meditate on Elliott’s craftsmanship. This style complements Elliott’s power to bring on a reflective mood. While his music was pensive, the interviews tell of an Elliott who could also be comical or at times, frightening where his death will always be a reminder of the vulnerability that comes with being such a sensitive artist. But as HEAVEN ADORES YOU shows, while Elliott’s music remains, we can still be consoled by him during breakups, moved during back veranda introspection or uplifted as we dance down the stairs.

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