Update: the song does not actually ppear in the documentary.
In recent years, Elliott Smith fans have gotten a peek at the late singer-songwriter’s creative process via a series of alternate takes (“Ballad of Big Nothng”) and unplugged demos (“Angeles”). Now, Pitchfork reports that Smith’s friend Kevin Moyer — who produced a new documentary about the folk-punk phenom called Heaven Adores You — has dug up a true gem: a previously unheard track by Smith that’s called “Ocean.”
Last week, Moyer told the Portland Radio Project hosts that Smith recorded the song at age 14, before he was even comfortable taking lead vocals. According to Moyer:
It’s interesting because it’s one of the first songs that as they were writing, Elliott would make lyrics for it. It’s keyboards, guitars, and Elliott singing. They did the keyboards and guitars first, and the Elliott came back and Steve Pickering convinced him, for demo purposes, to sing. I don’t think Elliott was a singer at that point, but they kind of pushed him to sing it, and he did. It’s probably one of the first songs that they did that actually has lyrics.
“Ocean” is a pretty stripped-down affair, complete with lovely instrumentals and fuzzy vocals. Like Smith’s finest work, it sounds vaguely spooky, incredibly introspective, and impossible to remain unaffected by. Stream it below at around the 32:00 mark.