Multi-instrumentalist Elliott Smith became a cult icon on the Portland, Oregon rock scene in the early 90s while fronting the alt-rock band Heatmiser. Smith embarked on a solo career in 1994 when he issued Roman Candle, which established him as a prodigiously talented songwriter and musician whose introspective lyrics and unique vocal style would mark him out as one of the most important indie-folk artists of the decade.
Smith's subsequent albums were masterpieces of informal confessional songwriting, though his growing confidence as a musician led him to the expanded palette of 2000's Figure 8, on which he provided string arrangements, as well as playing bass, drums and percussion, along with organ and Chamberlin electric piano. Co-produced with Bong Load indie label co-founders Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf, the album became Smith's highest-charting release in his lifetime, entering the Top 40 in the UK.
Figure 8 is a lush and beautifully melancholy collection of pop songs. One gets the feeling that the sound of his earlier work was not by choice but by economic necessity and Smith was now, with a major label budget and backing, able to establish himself as a pop craftsman on par with Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney.