Great music is a mystery. You know when you hear it, but identifying the very thing that makes it great is elusive. Of all the bands that desperately tried to emulate Nirvana, not one pulled it off.
The same aura of mystery clings to Elliott Smith, the singer-songwriter who took his life in 2003. New Moon is the second posthumous Smith release. This one is a two-disc compilation of rare and previously unreleased work from the pre-major-label phase of Smith's career.
Two of my favorite albums from the past 10 years are Smith's XO of 1998 and Figure 8 of 2000. Those records thrived on full production work that helped bring the beauty of Smith's songs out of their shell.
New Moon mostly follows the quieter, acoustic path that defined Smith's earlier years. The songs are no less beautiful, just less breathtaking.
If you're not familiar with Elliott Smith, you're missing out on one of life's great musical pleasures. Here's your chance.