42. Elliott Smith, 'Figure 8'
Elliott Smith's remarkable melodic sense had its perfect yin-yang match in the bottomless darkness of his lyrics. Figure 8, the last album Smith completed before committing suicide in 2003, was his most ornamented work. Yet there is joy in even the busiest arrangements: Dazzling music-hall piano drives the Beatlesque "In the Lost and Found (Honky Bach)/The Roost"; a guitar curlicues like wild ivy on the morbid power-pop number "L.A." It's hard to imagine the wave of rustic, gorgeous music coming out of Smith's adopted home, the Pacific Northwest (Fleet Foxes, the Decemberists), without this haunted high-water mark.
• Rolling Stone's Original 2000 Review