Saturday, October 21, 2023

Elliott Smith Rarities Archive – The Moon is a Sickle Cell [2023]

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The Moon is a Sickle Cell has been updated for the 20th anniversary of Elliott's passing. This update adds the leaks and releases from earlier this year of his work before his solo career. This includes Stranger Than Fiction, Harum Scarum, A Murder of Crows, and Heatmiser. 

The hope for this project from the start was to preserve Elliott's unreleased work in the best quality possible. There are so many songs that Elliott wrote and recorded that are excellent, but haven't been released. To really explain this, within this archive is a "best of the archive" collection that has 80 tracks that never made it to an album. 

Elliott's influence on other songwriters has been immense. He seems to always pop up in conversations with musical creatives and he's kind of become a ubiquitous reference, especially in the studio. His music doesn't have the same kind of backing that an artist owned by a major label would, so I think that's why he always seems like he's just on the periphery. 

I like that he's music's best kept secret and I'm glad to be a part of the fan community. I've enjoyed seeing how his music has been kept alive through various projects and shares. Still, there's always a chance that some of his music could be lost to time. I'm still dying to hear a good quality studio version of "Stained Glass Eyes" or "Flowers for Charlie" or "You Make It Seem Like Nothing" or "Abused."

A lot of these tracks have never seen any kind of official release or master by a professional audio engineer who could replicate Elliott's production style. Elliott's talent wasn't only his songcraft, but also his audio production skills. This can be seen in the difference between songs mixed by Larry Crane and songs mixed by Fritz Michaud, which the community tends to think is more in line with what Elliott would have wanted. That kind of mastering can only be achieved with access to the original recordings for the individual instrument and vocal parts.

Fingers crossed that we'll see the official release of some of these tracks next year for the 20th anniversary of From a Basement on the Hill. And fingers crossed that the audio production will sound like something Elliott would have been happy with.

This will probably be the last update ever to the archive. So it can serve as a snapshot of things up until 2023.

Here's the post from the 2021 edition:

The Moon is a Sickle Cell has been updated for 2021, with the goal of collecting and preserving every rarity track currently out there in circulation in the best quality possible, to make them available to the public into the future.

The original collection from 2016 had 180 tracks in it. This archive has more than 650.

Every download that can be found by searching anywhere online is in this archive. This includes Grand Mal, Confusion, Either/Or Sessions, Jackpot/XO Sessions, Place Pigalle Demos, Basement Tapes Unfinished/Suppressed, From A Basement On The Hill II, The Moon is a Light Bulb Breaking, etc. And there’s even more songs that aren’t in any other collection from recent leaks. 

A lot of the tracks are now in a lossless format (FLAC or WAV), as they come from new sources, but there are still files in a lossy format (MP3 or M4A), because no other file exists.

This archive project began in 2015 because a lot of the downloads that were out there at the time had been transcoded or edited and didn’t have much precise order or organization to them. They were missing the information about when Elliott recorded them and also what the difference was between the various versions of the same songs. So, the archive was posted online in 2016 to try to preserve the initial leaks in the best quality possible and to attach recording and version information to them.

It was surprising to see how much The Moon is a Sickle Cell got traded on the internet, and it still circulates today. Unfortunately, any version of The Moon is a Sickle Cell from 2016 that can be found online now has been transcoded somewhere along it’s downloading journey. The 2016 version should be deleted and hopefully this new archive can replace the old one.

A note about transcoding: anytime a lossy format (like MP3) is converted, it loses a little bit of information and quality - so this archive should never be transcoded and reshared online. You can make a playlist and listen to all the files using VLC player.

In terms of the information for each track, each one was researched using the documentation from the Alphabet Town session history and the knowledge base of the fan community to provide as many details about them as possible. All of the files are now listed chronologically by year and broken up into folders for the recording sessions that surrounded each studio album. There is also a documentation folder, where all of the recording session and discography information can be found.

The original title, The Moon is a Sickle Cell, was a joke based on the title of the official 2007 release of rarities, New Moon, but it seems to still fit. The phrase comes from the song “Coming Up Roses” from the self-titled album Elliott Smith. The line is, “The moon is a sickle cell, it’ll kill you in time. Your cold white brother riding your blood like spun glass in sore eyes.”

The image that was initially used for the “album cover” of The Moon is a Sickle Cell was from the cover of Autumn de Wilde’s photography book, titled Elliott Smith. For anyone looking for a biography of Elliott Smith, I always recommend this book as the best one out there. It’s full of interviews with people who knew him well and it paints a portrait of Elliott Smith that feels real and captures the many different sides of him. In this way, I feel that it corrects a lot of the misconceptions that are tied to his music.

Elliott’s music has had a big impact on my life and sharing that music has allowed me to find a sense of community through connecting with other fans. I believe that his songs should be available for everyone to listen to.

I always like to come back to Elliott’s attitude about sharing his music. In reference to the Napster revolution that was happening around that time, he said:

"I like the idea...sure, people should be able to trade musically with each other, I mean people do anyway...there's arguments to be made...but I don't really have an opinion...I'm not one of those bands that sells millions of records and then gets mad at Napster."

Gary Smith, Elliott's father, was also quoted as saying:

"While we were talking, we talked about sharing/trading elliott's music and he thought it was important to mention it was ok to share or trade elliott's music because elliott believed people should be able to trade musically with each other and that the family feels the same."

If you do want to support Elliott’s work and his family, donate to the Elliott Smith memorial fund at or Free Arts for Abused Children or you can buy one of his records.

A HUGE thanks to MaRaBalos, to Lyn / PrettyMaryKProject, Elliott Smith Discography, EddieBrock, cosmobubbles, and everyone in the fan community.

The Moon is a Sickle Cell -  Compilations 


As a bonus, the archive also includes additional compilations created to pull different highlights from the archive, to make some different listening experiences.

The Moon is a Sickle Cell - Archive Compilation (Master Versions of Solo Rarities)

This is a collection of only one version of each rarity track. The track is either the best quality version or the most well known version of the track. 

There are 80 songs in total, so it’s like an 80 track rarities album.

Download this compilation here

Elliott Smith - A Shot of White Noise + Violent Girl (Curated Rarities Comps)

These are two curated rarities compilations mixing favorite tracks into two mixes that can be listened to as if they are “new” albums.

A Shot of White Noise is the more acoustic album and Violent Girl is the album with more instrumentation and electric guitar.

Download this compilation here

Elliott Smith - Fritz Moon (Fritz Michaud's New Moon - Comp of All Fritz Mixes)

Elliott asked Fritz Michaud to master a lot of his rarities and they were in consideration for the New Moon album, but Larry Crane was chosen to mix instead. A lot of fans consider the Fritz mixes to be better and more in line with Elliott’s style. 

The reason is that the Crane mixes were done after Elliott's death, so the artist had no say in the mastering and only the label and the production team did. The result is that New Moon has a much "cleaner" production and a more centered stereo image, whereas Michaud's mixes contain a noticable level of white noise and they also separate parts into left and right speakers better. This is more in line with what Elliott used to like to do. The Michaud mixes sound more like the first three albums, Roman Candle, Elliott Smith, or Either/Or.

This compilation collects all of the mixes by Fritz Michaud that are available. 

Download this compilation here

Elliott Smith - Smile at Confusion (Live Rarities Comp)

One of the earliest collections of any Elliott Smith material was called Confusion and it was a bunch of live versions of unreleased and off album songs. 

This compilation reimagines that collection by incorporating songs from all of the new live sources that have been collected over the years. The title Smile at Confusion comes from the song “Dancing on the Highway.”

Download this compilation here


Elliott Smith - Thirteen (Best Live Covers Comps)

This is a more condensed version of Part 9 of the archive. 

"Part 1 (Best Quality)" is a collection of all of the highest quality live versions of cover songs that are available. 

"Part 2 (Low Quality)" is a collection of all the lower quality cover songs, but the best quality tracks available. 

There is at least one track of each cover song Elliott played live that was recorded. 

Download this compilation here

Elliott Smith - Misery Club (Fan Voted Favorites Rarities Comps)

This is a mix of the rarities from the archive organized by fan votes from an online survey and the voting conducted on reddit. 

It is included to give an alternate listening experience for the off album songs.

Track 1 on Disk 1 was voted the most times and the last track of Disk 2 was voted the least amount of times.


Check out other posts on Elliott Smith:

Rarities Albums:
A Shot of White Noise & Violent Girl
Elliott Smith - The Miser of Heat

From a White Basement on the Hill

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