It's Elliott Smith season; the time between his birthday (August 6th) and the date of his passing (October 21.) There's a certain segment of fans that treat these 3 months as a time to reflect on his work. Retrospective think pieces will be written and XO vinyls will be dusted off, but you can see this most at the Figure 8 mural in Los Angeles. It's around these dates that there's an uptick of messages scrawled along its black, white and red lines. As if it were a holiday, some fans leave flowers or candles.
In the nearly 10 years since his passing, there's no doubting that he's remembered as an avatar of suffering through art. He's become indie's Kurt Cobain. Depending on your temperament, this is either the canonizing of a saint or the reduction of a rich and unknowable life.
I understand the ways it is problematic. Even in life, Smith seemed to resist the idea of being the sad, confessional artist that many of us channeled from his work. It didn't matter. As fans, we used the idea as a totem to explore our own troubles. Falling in love with the tragic story required assumptions on our part that were easy to make. It's even easier to characterize him these days. In death, there's no one to stop us from forming whatever romantic image we want.