Universal acclaim - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 37 out of 37
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 37
  3. Negative: 0 out of 37
  1. Freed from the more formal sound and circumstances of his previous work, Smith indulged without being indulgent, and the revelation here is the exuberant, instinctive, playful and daring sonic pilot who was hidden inside the meticulous craftsman of such albums as "XO" and "Figure 8." [10 Oct 2004]
  2. Every track on Basement is a highlight. [Nov 2004, p.150]
  3. You are drawn to the conclusion that these songs would be remarkable regardless of the circumstances in which they were written.
  4. If you're not moved in some way, you don't move.
  5. 100
    Exquisite, angry, sad and personal, basement is a beautiful swan song of one of this generation's best.
  6. 100
    It's simply wonderful -- bristling with pop masterpieces large and small, and reassuringly unburdened by Smith's deep-seated malaise.
  7. 91
    Large and epic, but tense and claustrophobic as well, and gratefully, it's as close to Elliott as we've ever been. [#12, p.92]
  8. The record is strong and radiant, if not always upbeat.... One of the best he ever made. [22 Oct 2004, p.92]
  9. 91
    Smith's intentions cry out from the album's every discordant corner--he clearly wanted to test himself, to unhinge parts of his sound. [Nov 2004, p.105]
  10. While this is clearly not the record Smith intended to make, it's still an immensely gripping and cohesive piece of work. [23 Oct 2004, p.47]
  11. There is a certain confidence inherent in these tracks, as if Smith had finally proven to himself that he didn't need to try to outdo The Beatles in his arrangements. [#7]
  12. From a Basement on the Hill is a far better album than it has any right to be, with its bizarre sequencing and improbable ambitions.
  13. An unfinished album, and also a beautifully accomplished one.
  14. While it's likely that From a Basement is cleaner than what Smith... intended, it is much sparer than Figure 8, and it feels at once more adventurous, confident, and warmer than its predecessor.
  15. A far better album than it has any right to be.
  16. 90
    Marks the crown atop Elliott's other five albums: a unique gift from a huge-hearted musician. [#8, p.79]
  17. The album is, in short, phenomenal. It certainly doesn’t match the beauty and heartbreak of Either/Or (1997), but it manages to recapture the spirit of that record while properly articulating the orchestration that Elliott had been working with for Figure 8 and XO (1998).
  18. 80
    As ever, his chord changes and arrangements betray an inventiveness seemingly borne of brilliant instinct. [Nov 2004, p.92]
  19. 80
    From A Basement... returns us to the more unfiltered, denuded sound of his earlier [albums]. [Nov 2004, p.106]
  20. 80
    His bleakness was never this naked or all-consuming. [Nov 2004, p.143]
  21. This is largely intense, liberated stuff. [Nov 2004, p.111]
  22. The most fitting of testaments -- a flawed, courageous, beautiful and intimately human portrait of the self.
  23. Smith bundles subtlety and ferocity to create one of his heart-aching best.
  24. On the whole Basement is noisy and rough, and often sounds more like the best record Heatmiser never made than the next Elliott Smith album.
  25. The low-fi yet meticulous arrangements only add to the sense of isolation and the poignancy of the songs. [18 Oct 2004]
  26. Hill feels more like a retrospective than a steady gallop toward the next stage in Smith's artistic advancement.
  27. More structured and electric than Either/Or, but without the overproduction of Figure 8, Basement is the next logical step.
  28. The most disheartening thing about From a Basement on the Hill is its plainness-- it's neither a perfect record (and not one of Smith's best) nor the kind of colossal disaster that could be angrily pinned on money-hungry handlers and desperate fans.
  29. A fine collection of songs from an immensely talented, tragically lost soul.
  30. The good news is that there is no real filler on the album, but this uniformity of quality equates to an album where every song is good, but where few are really great.
  31. This is an album about the seductions of oblivion, and a few of the more densely arranged songs mimic the characters in the lyrics, stumbling around without quite connecting.
  32. A fitting farewell to a distinctive voice silenced too early.
  33. Slightly overlong and sometimes stitched-together, From A Basement On The Hill sags in spots.... Yet in the end, the album still earns its place--not at the top, and unfortunately as a bookend--in a jarringly important body of work.
  34. While it makes a lot of musical leaps (it's probably the most "experimental" work he's done), not all of them work, but there are still some great moments for fans of his work here.
  35. This final record is neither focused nor infallible, instead a rarer glimpse at a man whose creative doorways, once the source of so much hope and inspiration, had become outnumbered by his demons.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 100 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 62 out of 63
  2. Negative: 0 out of 63
  1. Aug 17, 2013
    Maybe this isn't the fairest review, because I'm a huuge Elliott Smith fan. I do feel like this album has a rawness that is invigorating, particularly on the rock tracks. Some of his finest picking resides here as well. King's Crossing is one for the ages, and the sequencing totally works. This is amazing stuff. If you're not a fan, I don't really get that, and if you are then you don't need my encouragement. All the same, pick this up. Full Review »
  2. Jun 6, 2012
    The best Elliott Smith album, I wonder how it would turn out if he was still alive. Its so sad how much sadness he carried. It seems often that the people with the most talent and soul are taken so soon. Full Review »
  3. Aug 14, 2011
    By no means an easy listen, but a remarkable album in every regard. Tracks like A Fond Farewell and King's Crossing, and Coast to Coast are among the most affecting Elliott ever made. I still think Either/Or is his best album (partially because every song on it is brilliant, but largely because it has extreme highs to match it's extreme lows, which unfortunately can't be said for most of his work), but criticizing someone for making an amazing album just because I don't think it's their magnum opus would be silly. Full Review »