Illustrator: Nicole Anguish.
Elliott Smith has always garnered a great deal of respect from fellow songwriters. His balance of melancholic indie folk and nuanced pop sophistication stuck a chord with fans and peers alike, who were drawn to his honesty and vulnerability. Since his untimely death in 2003, a handful of tribute albums have appeared, with 2016's Say Yes! offering a number of high quality renditions. An impressive spread of Smith's forebears, peers, and followers make up the playlist with alt-rock stalwarts like J. Mascis, Tanya Donelly, and Lou Barlow paying their respects alongside newcomers like Julien Baker, Wild Sun, and Waxahatchee. Many of these adaptations honor Smith's more stripped-down style, with Tanya Donelly's "Between the Bars" and William Fitzsimmons' "Say Yes" taking a more delicate approach and Amanda Palmer moodily pounding out the keys of her piano on "Pictures of Me." Austin's Caroline Says offer a particularly dreamy, lo-fi reading of "No Name #3," while Nashville duo Escondido take a lusher approach on "Waltz #1." As with any compilation, it plays a bit unevenly at times, but overall, Say Yes! is a solid listen born out of great respect for Smith's legacy. ~ Timothy Monger