I saw Elliott Smith in 2000, and I enjoyed the show, just like I enjoy all his albums, but it didn't help me get a bead on him any better. I'm often impressed with his material; I'm often impressed with this album and with all his albums. I can distinguish this one because I can distinguish the song "Baby Britain," which I would have to call my favorite by him, although I'm not entirely sure it's in character. I'm not sure what's in character for Elliott Smith in the first place, which is the problem I'm trying to talk about. On the other hand, it's always such a lovely mood, and there is a lot to be said for that, at least in his case. This may be why I tend to prefer him by the albumful, by a dozen songs or more at a time—a groove of them, if you will. They blend with one another into the finest tapestries, touching and developing musical themes, more so as one comes to know them. But there's something vague about it too, I know. I'm still not sure exactly what the difference is between "Waltz #2 (XO)," the other single from the album with "Baby Britain," and "Waltz #1," because I just haven't taken the time to listen to them side by side (the album sequencing puts "#2" at #3 and "#1" at #8, someone else can make sense of this) to compare. I think I hear the Pacific Northwesterner in him in the wide-open eclecticism delivered with an American accent, but there are all kind of influences lurking in here like beasts of the sea—Nick Drake, Byrds, Merseybeat, to name three obvious ones. It's cozy wintertime coffeehouse music, something to play while reading Signet Classic paperbacks or for in the darkroom. It's sad and human, warm and engaging, but at the same time a little cold and clinical too, which I take mostly as artifact of an introverted personality attempting to get over, on which terms I identify. I really like this—I had better state that clearly because I think I might be making a muddle of this. It's comfortable and comforting, and if it isn't exactly memorable, in terms of causing one to carry the songs around in one's head, it is instantly and easily found residing in memory, calling up old feelings and creating new ones, elusive as fog while it plays, somehow making more sense in the times heard between, confirmed by playing again, when the familiarity and the nice comforting feel of it take hold again, deepened and refined. Nice to hear a lot of at a time.