It’s been almost 8 years since Elliott Smith, one of the best singer-songwriters of all time, died at only 34 years old, and yet many unanswered questions still loom about his life and tragically premature death. (The Los Angeles Coroner’s Department left the official cause of death open, as they determined that “trauma that he sustained could have been inflicted by him or by another.”) In a new documentary titled Searching for Elliott Smith, however, director Gil Reyes seeks to shed light on these subjects through interviews with Smith’s close friends, collaborators (such as Good Will Hunting director Gus Van Sant), and former girlfriend Jennifer Chiba, who was with Smith when he passed in 2003. We first mentioned this project two years ago, when it had begun making the rounds on the film festival circuit, but now it’s set to screen at the L.A. New Wave International Film Festival. 24B pal and Rawkblog mastermind David Greenwald met up with Reyes recently for a must-read interview published on the Los Angeles Times’ Brand X today.
Meanwhile, Smith left behind a treasure chest of previously unheard recordings, some of which have been released posthumously in the form of 2004’s From a Basement on the Hill and 2007 double-disc New Moon. Unreleased gems still surface now and then, as well, including five songs of unconfirmed origin that first appeared on YouTube this March. In all honesty, I’ve been on the fence about pointing these out, as Smith’s legacy is held sacred to myself and many, but in the context of documenting the work of my personal favorite musician, I’d be remiss in not sharing. If you’re new to Smith, start out with a proper introduction, but otherwise, you can check out 5 degraded, lo-fi recordings that were most likely drawn from early demos below: