The shadow of Elliott Smith’s 2003 suicide looms large over the songwriter’s output, but the fact remains: Smith was a lush composer, whose songs are more colorful and multifaceted than dreary. That can be heard best when they’re arranged for an orchestra, which is just what indie musicians Jason Lytle and Troy Von Balthazar have done.
In an appearance for the French radio station France Musique, Lytle (formerly of Grandaddy) and Von Balthazar (formerly of Chokebore) teamed up with a chamber orchestra they called the Color Bars Experience to perform 2000’s Figure 8, the last studio album Smith finished recording. (The posthumous From a Basement on the Hill was released in 2004.)* The horns, woodwinds, and strings add new textures to the original songs, while both singers do surprisingly good likenesses of Smith’s tenor. Here’s the cover of “Junk Bond Trader”; the rest of the tracks can be heard through the France Musique website.
*Update, May 7, 2015: This post was updated to clarify that Figure 8 is the last album Smith finished recording. The posthumous From a Basement on the Hill was released in 2004.