By: Eric G.
I still can’t get over the fact that a former member of Heatmiser, who has recorded solo records for Kill Rock Stars, is on a label owned by Steven Speilberg. Seeing Smith at the Academy Awards holding hands with Celine Dion after performing his Oscar nominated track, Miss Misery, from the film Good Will Hunting was even more bizarre. However, blocking all of that insanity out of my head was easy while listening to XO, Smiths finest record to date.
His promise that he would expand his sound with this new record was a scary thought, considering that his charm lies in his ability to conjure up a stillness and sadness not seen since the days of Nick Drake with his hushed whisper and melodic acoustic finger picking. Smith is careful not to over-indulge himself with his big Dreamworks budget, however. Instead he layers his beautiful melodies with a full backing band, horns, and even strings.
Smiths songs cover the familiar lyrical ground of dissolving relationships, chemical abuse, and bitter resignation carefully avoiding cliché while conveying all of his emotions with the same tone- a fragile whisper. His delicate voice gains a little power with multi-tracking, but he doesn’t abuse it. His melodies and arrangements are reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkles bleakest offerings. Sweet Adeline is one of the albums most effective tracks with its sweeping climax that resembles Abbey Road-era Beatles, specifically the piano riff. XO is an impressive major label debut, and Smith is deserving of all of his recent attention and accolades.