written by scott kohler

dreamworks, 1998
rating: ***** (out of *****)

i fell in love with xo a week ago. it happened quite suddenly, on our second date. the first time i heard it I was impressed, surely. the second time i heard it i was nearly knocked over by it. it's an indisputable fact that this is one of the most beautiful sounding albums ever made, up there with (i don't want to sound like i'm repeating myself, but i have to) the beach boys' pet sounds and not much else. elliott has proven with no doubt that he knows his way around a recording studio, since this, his first album recorded on more than 8 tracks, is packed with an array of sounds (many of them multi-tracked vocals) that are suited exactly to each song.

the album opens with "sweet adeline", which begins as a guitar-and-vocal song that wouldn't have sounded out of place on any of elliott's older albums. halfway through, however, we are welcomed into the new world of elliott with the chorus of the song, complete with harmonies and a strong piano part. as you move through the album, you can't help but be drawn in by songs such as "tomorrow tomorrow" and "waltz #2(xo)". it is with the next song, though, that elliott hits a new high. "baby britain" is one of elliott's best songs, with a simple piano and drums arrangement, and one of the catchiest melodies ever written. lyrics like, "sees the ocean fall and rise/ counts the waves that somehow didn't hit her/ water pouring from her eyes/ alcoholic and very bitter..." don't hurt, either.

every song is a highlight to me now. from the loud guitars of "amity" to the stunning a cappella song "i didn't understand", there isn't a weak moment. this is music you want to just listen to. my two other current favorites (since my favorites change with every listen) are "pitseleh" and "bled white". "pitseleh" is a song that lifts a line from john lennon's "jealous guy" (a song elliott often covers at shows), and reworks that song's theme, to come up with a beautiful song about lost (or thrown away) love. and "bled white" is the song that will probably bring most of the comparisons to the beach boys' brian wilson. the harmonies are complex, numerous, and just right for the song. this is a bright sounding song with a dark undertone, like much of this album.

those are some of the reasons i love xo, but not all of them. if you want to know that you'll have to listen to it yourself. don't worry, i'm not a jealous guy; you can have xo too. in fact, buy it as soon as you see it. it will go down in music history as a classic.