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Song to Start Your Week

‘Angeles,’ Elliott Smith

A warm blanket of sound for your midterm anxieties

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Song to start your week

As the weather gets colder, the ground becomes more dense with leaves than the trees, and midterm grades come in, there’s a strange mixed feeling of coziness and anxiety. While walking outside in the nose-biting wind, I like to keep warm with the lo-fi acoustic tunes of the PNW’s late music gem Elliott Smith. “Angeles,” from Smith’s 1997 album “Either/Or,” is the perfect tune for the mixed feelings of warm and cold, comfort and dread currently filling the air.

“Angeles” is a relatively short and simple tune, consisting of just Smith’s voice accompanied by an acoustic guitar. The song opens on a soft high note and elaborate guitar pickings, evoking a mental image of wind whistling and leaves fluttering in the wind.

Smith, who started his career in Portland, Oregon, wrote “Angeles” in response to his internal conflict about signing onto a bigger record label. The frantic guitar and lyrics reflect his anxieties surrounding the move: “Picking up the ticket shows there's money to be made / Go on, lose the gamble, that's the history of the trade / Did you add up all the cards left to play to zero / And sign up with evil, Angeles?”

Despite the unease in the lyrics, there’s a warmth that flows through the song as a whole. With the simplicity of the arrangement, the lo-fi recording quality, and Smith’s whispery, double-tracked vocals whose consonants create an almost ASMR-like effect, the song creates the illusion that Smith is right next to you, singing in your ears.

As the changing seasons remind you of uncertain times ahead, it can be hard to know whether you need comfort or catharsis. Look no further than “Angeles,” which strikes a balance between the two as delicate as the composition of the song itself.

Reach writer Natalie Rand at Twitter: @n_rand_

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