Treble & Tremble
Few obituaries, tributes or theories about Elliott Smith will properly capture what he meant and continues to mean to his fans. One attempt that gets it right is Earlimart's Treble & Tremble. Attribute it to access -- which Smith often denied -- but if living next door was what it took for lead singer Aaron Espinoza to embrace Smith's triumphs and demons, every journalist should move in with their subject. The album opens with him singing, "Hold on, you might be perfect / Hold on, you might be worth it." Smith was both and Earlimart lets you know.
On the title track of his album, Trouble, Lamontagne claims he's been saved by a woman. Now, if I were the woman he's been saved by, I'd be very flattered, and I'd probably think "Trouble" was the best song on this album. But, if that were the case, I would be wrong because the lyrics to "Jolene" are the exact reason I want a musician to write a song about me: "A man needs something he can hold on to / A nine-pound hammer, or a woman like you / Either one of them things will do / Jolene." Not to mention, his voice is incredible. Kills me every time.
Definitely Maybe is the greatest debut album. Ever. It embodies what a rock debut is supposed to be: the crucial combination of headstrong attitude and a remarkably mature approach, underscored by a beautiful self-awareness. It tells the introspective story of a band's dreams and conflicts on the verge of achieving worldwide success, set to the score of Noel Gallagher's luminous songwriting and brother Liam's vocal snarl. A year later, Oasis became the world's biggest band. Blueprints for success are laid out in the opening track "Rock n Roll Star," with childhood flashbacks in "Live Forever," and struggle to balance personal and rockstar lives in the gorgeous "Slide Away." With Definitely Maybe, a band wasn't afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve while raising a middle finger to all those who stand in its way.