Elliott Smith’s third solo album, 1997’s Either/Or, turns 20 this year (yup, it’s really 2017), and therefore of course is being remastered, reissued, and given bonus tracks. Though anniversary editions can at times seem like empty attempts to extract cash from the past, this particular release bears some legitimately exciting components — one of which was just shared: a studio version of Smith’s gorgeous “I Figured You Out” has been released by Smith’s label, Kill Rock Stars.
The track started as a demo for Mary Lou Lord, and her version of it appears on her 2008 EP Martian Saints; Smith also performed the song live, and those versions are also up on Youtube. So it’s not as though diehard fans have never heard this song, but they’ve never heard it like this, with the lovely balance of ruggedness and polish Smith’s newly released studio version affords the aching melody/Smith’s nonchalantly biting lyrics (“I’ll pick up around you/Clear everything out/Leave you where i found you/I figured you out”).
The announcement of the reissue was given a New York Times feature. The article reminds us, amusingly, that when Smith/Either/Or were popularized via Good Will Hunting, his track, “Miss Misery,” lost the Academy Award to “My Heart Will Go On.”
The reissue has been put together by Smith’s archivist and former collaborator, Larry Crane, and was originally planned for the album’s 10th anniversary in 2007. But Crane describes having come across an overwhelming amount of unreleased material that “would have swamped the album” had it been released with it, and so instead 2007 saw the release of the New Moon collection. That’s not to say that this release doesn’t come with its share of bonus material, though: Crane chose five tracks from a performance by Smith at Olympia, Washington’s Yo Yo a Go Go Festival in 1997, as well as the aforementioned “I Figured You Out,” a new version of “I Don’t Think I’m Ever Gonna Figure It Out,” and more. (Pitchfork has the full track list.)
The original album is being kept completely intact, and so because there will now be two versions of it available, Crane and mastering engineer Adam Gonsalves felt a certain freedom to alter the sound for the reissue: “beef[ing] it up” while also, per the Times, “removing excess noise for additional sonic clarity.”
Hear Smith’s studio version of “I Figured You Out”:
The reissue is set for March 10, and fans will get to choose between a two-disk or two vinyl LP set.