Roman Candle, an Album by Elliott Smith 9.6/10

“I’m a roman candle, my head is full of flames,” Elliott Smith sings in the title track to his album Roman Candle. (Composite image by Audrey Ramirez)

Recorded on a four-track recorder in his girlfriend’s basement, Elliott Smith manages to combine soulful lyrics and lo-fi folk instrumentals to create his absolutely stunning debut album Roman Candle. Smith touches on heavy subjects such as domestic abuse, alcoholism, relationship issues, and loneliness in such an inconspicuous way, reminiscent of Outkast’s “Hey Ya”, a song about divorce hidden behind a fast-paced dance rhythm. 

“I wanna hurt him, 

I wanna give him pain.” 

Smith opens with this line as his chorus to the title track “Roman Candle” which begins the album. Quick yet subtle guitar strums hauntingly ring in each ear as you take in the deep and intense lyrics. 

“He could be cool and cruel to you and me

Knew we’d put up with anything… 

Your tears are cheap, wet hot red swollen cheeks…”

Smith bravely shares his painful experiences of domestic violence and emotional abuse as a kid via music. Seeing as this is only the first track of the album, it suggests that you strap in and prepare yourself for the rest of the album because it is definitely a ride. 

Songs like “Condor Ave”, “No Name #2”, and “No Name #4” discuss relationship issues, abuse, and occasionally alcoholism, which is a huge issue Smith personally struggled with for a long time. 

“I wondered if I would talk about drug use. But I guess, why hide it?” says Smith. 

Elliott beautifully combines acoustic guitar with his own soft and breathy vocals. “No Name #3” is a perfect example of the kind of melodies Smith is capable of creating; with about a few guitar and vocal tracks stacked on top of each other, this song is the epitome of “indie”. Each song has such a raw tone, almost as if you were with him while he was recording. “No Name #3” opens at a 79 bpm tempo soft guitar strum that makes you appreciate your sense of hearing more than ever before. Elliott begins singing in a whisper, discussing an unhealthy relationship either between a couple or a family. 

Emotional intensity and musical brilliance combine to create a nearly perfect album. 9.6/10