What I find kind of delightful about releases like New Moon, the “latest” from Elliott Smith (the Tupac of angst?) is just how exhaustive the documentation really is (scroll down to the “product description” section). When you have a large archival project like this, where the subject is no longer around to provide reminiscences and feedback, it all comes down to the dedication of people like producer Larry Crane, founder of Tape Op. There’s a certain selflessness and devotion to getting someone else’s details right that I really find touching. Future generations might feel the same, assuming there’ll be people 20 years from now who want to know about Elliott Smith’s musical minutiae. Not an unreasonable assumption to make.
Meanwhile, the delicate questions—would Smith have wanted this released? is a posthumous outtake collection exploitative?—go on and on. Are fans being exploited? I don’t think so. Passionate fans are completists and have no cause to feel ripped off if they know what they’re getting into. (Not that they would in this case: New Moon isn’t bad at all. I’m speaking in generalities here.) As for whether or not this stuff should get released in the first place, I suppose the best solution—for those few people reading this who actually have bodies of work, let alone fans—is to err on the side of caution and pick your own executor. If you don’t, keep your fingers crossed that you luck into someone like Larry Crane—there aren’t a lot of ’em out there.