Rolling Stone - 9/3/98, pp.98-1003.5 Stars (out of 5)
- "...his most adventurous music ever, opening up his acoustic flow with piano, horns, vocal overdubs, even a string section. Smith still has a love jones, and he's still a heartache looking for a place to happen..."
Spin - 1/99, p.91Ranked #2
on Spin's list of "Top 20 Albums of '98."
Spin - 9/98, pp.180-1828 (out of 10)
- "...This is his happiest sounding record to date, and his saddest; haunted and trembling beneath its composed surface of chiming guitars and soothing electric piano..."
Entertainment Weekly - 9/4/98, p.82
"...As with his indie albums, XO wallows in sentiments and melodies so fragile, they should be individually bubbled-wrapped. Smith's world is one in which people continually search for emotional connections--only to lose or break them and then live with the regret..." - Rating: B
CMJ - 1/11/99, p.3
"...His major label debut, XO, ably shattered all expectations, displaying a level of melodic beauty and stark sophistication..."
Personnel: Elliott Smith; Rob Schnapf (guitar); Farhad Behroozi, Russel Cantor, Pamela Dealmeida, Waldemar Dealmeida, Henry Ferber, Jerrod Goodman, Peter Hatch, Raymond Tischer II (strings); Bruce Escovitz (flute, baritone saxophone, bass); Roy Poper (trumpet); R. James Atkinson (French horn); Jon Brion (chamberlain, vibraphone); Joey Waronker (drums); Tom Rothrock (drum loop).
Producers: Tom Rothrock, Rob Schnapf, Elliot Smith.
Engineers: Tom Rothrock, Rob Schnapf, Elliot Smith, Larry Crane.
Recorded at Sunset Sound, Sound Factory, Ocean Way, Sonora, Los Angeles, California; Jackpot!, Portland, Oregon.
Personnel: Rob Schnapf (guitar); Jerrod Goodman, Farhad Behroozi, Henry Ferber, Peter Hatch, Pamela Dealmeida (strings); Bruce Eskovitz (flute, baritone saxophone); Roy Poper (trumpet); James Atkinson (French horn); Jon Brion (chamberlin); Joey Waronker (drums).
Audio Mixers: Elliott Smith; Larry Crane ; Rob Schnapf; Tom Rothrock.
Recording information: Jac; Ocean Way, Los Angeles, CA; Sonora, Los Angeles, CA; Sound Factory, Los Angeles, CA; Sunset Sound, Hollywood, CA.
Photographer: Eric Matthies.
The Cinderella-esque climb from lo-fi indie cult artist to Grammy nominee/major label darling must have been a perilous one for Smith, who makes the leap to the big time here after three well-regarded albums on small labels. He's lost none of his bite, though. The production values on XO may be slightly higher, but Smith's vision remains undiluted.
The production, centered around acoustic guitar augmented by keyboards and lush vocal harmonies, recalls pop icons like the Beach Boys (especially on the closing acapella cut), Beatles and Big Star, but this is no sunny Cali-pop album. Leavening the instrumental brightness are Smith's Nick Drake-ish whisper and his thoroughly downcast lyrics, which cast him squarely in the Mark Eitzel/Smog camp of unrelenting self-effacement and misery. The combination of Smith's internal angst and his melodic pop constructions makes for a compelling artistic tension.