Either/Or: Expanded Edition

By themselves, the previously unreleased songs augmenting the 20th anniversary re-release of Elliott Smith’s masterpiece, Either/Or, make it a necessity. Collected and mastered by Chico ex-pat and Smith archivist Larry Crane, the new songs include five live cuts, a remixed/remastered version of B-side “I Don’t Think I’m Ever Gonna Figure It Out,” and three new songs, the most impressive of which is “I Figured You Out,” another crown jewel in Smith’s rich catalog of emotionally resonant indie rock. Before this release, the only recorded evidence of this great song was a cover by songstress Mary Lou Lord. While her version demonstrated the song’s value, its composer brings the mid-tempo pop song’s nuances to the fore with finger-picked guitar, subtle chord-organ and hushed vocals that manage to both break and pacify the heart with quiet catharsis. The album proper is left relatively untouched here, and its re-release—much like the work of other celebrated songwriters who died too young—likely will gain Smith more posthumous recognition than it did during his life. No matter the decade, it belongs in the canon of classics.