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on 17 February 2004
There are many contrasting shades in music. There's music for summer, music for winter, music for night, music for day...As far as late-night music goes, Mark Kozelek and his band of pretty unmerry men, Red House Painters must have written at least 3 albums, including their self-titled 'proper' debut, and this 'Ocean Beach', that define what a late-night truly is.
'Ocean Beach' as fellow reviewers have previously noted, is for anyone who has loved and anyone who has loved and lost. Just as from the beginning of their career, Red House Painters have always created a sense of atmosphere of despair that can't quite be touched upon. Although I have never had my heart broken personally, 'Ocean Beach' is Red House Painters crowning achievement, as I can feel the anguish behind Kozelek's human-yet-broken voice, and behind the delicate simplicity of each song.
Just as the cover of the album shows the picture of an out of focus windmill, there is a thick section of atmosphere around Red House Painters that you can't quite put your finger on, and is only broken when each song slowly fades out before the next slowly fades back in. They're very serious about what the do, with only the opening to 'Over My Head' with the band talking shows that there are people behind the wall of relaxed pain. There's no better statement on 'Ocean Beach' or in Red House Painters entire back catalogue that depicts the maximum despair they could fall to than 'Drop' a story of a guy, cheated on. You'd think just listening to the subtle guitar and Kozelek's voice that he was on death row, but if there was one way to express that feeling it was how Red House Painters did.
For the most part, the rest of 'Ocean Beach' is soaked in darkness and is unsettling, but not to a degree that you can't sit back and listen, quite the contrary. Red House Painters have written an album that provokes but not to an extent that causes sleepless nights. 'Summer Dress' is positively drowned in beauty, and amazingly through the pain, hope shines, so it's not all gloom, while 'Shadows' a pretty much entirely piano-based ballad, is free in its expression and seems to soar and doesn't become repetitive, like much of the 9 tracks on 'Ocean Beach' some extending to 7 minute long plus. 'San Geronimo' despite being one of the more 'active' tracks on the album, retains the atmosphere of the album perfectly in tone, and keeps the album nicely in shape, and makes it a superb listen as a whole.
Not only have 'Red House Painters' created an album of quality but also, possibly the only album that you're glad that drags. It's a good thing, since music like this is meant to. It's there to disturb, but also to comfort, and that means that 'Ocean Beach' is possibly the greatest late night album ever made.
4 Stars.
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on 16 April 2005
Having heard the names Red House Painters and Mark Kozelek mentioned regularly in the same breath as artists such as Owen and Mike Kinsella, whom I admire a great deal, I went out and bought on impulse the Painters' 2001 album "Old Ramon," which blew me away...so much so that I bought this 1996 collection, "Ocean Beach" which easily bests the 2001 offering. Right from the gently ambling instrumental "Cabezon" to the epic, morose "Drop" this is an absolutely absorbing, spellbinding listen.
The pastoral feel of most of the record is evident on the heartbreaking "Summer Dress" and the bouncing, sunny "Over My Head" (honorable exception being the fuzztoned "San Geronimo") but Kozelek's marvellous rich voice is constantly delivering lyrics of bereavment, entrapment, loss and searing pain. This contrast between the music and the lyrics is part of the enormous appeal of this album. The highpoint for me is the unspeakably beautiful "Brockwell Park" which combines ultra-sensitive guitar picking with an oscillating, high-pitched keyboard and Kozelek's most heart-wrenching vocal performance on an album full of them.
This is one of my favourite albums...highly recommended.
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on 6 June 2003
Anyone who's ever been in love really needs to get hold of a copy of this album. Previous Red House Painters albums, while containing frequent moments of perfection, were maybe too bleak to really hit the mark. After all, how many 8 minute dissections of a broken heart played really really slowly can a person take? But here all the elements that make Red House Painters so wonderful come together on every song - and there's even a bit of hope thrown in. And as other bands will tell you, hope is important.
One of the Kings of Convenience said that when he listens to Red House Painters it's so perfect that it makes him wonder why he bothers making music at all and I know what he means. The drums never speed up - understanding that less is more and the prettily picked guitars weave in and out beautifully - never taking over but always bringing something to the party.
But really it's Mark Kozelek that we're here for and he doesn't disappoint once. He's removed the mountains of reverb and puts his voice firmly on show. We've got wistfulness "summer dress, makes you more beautiful than the rest", we've got fond memories "lost summers of my youth, I spent them all with you", we've got widescreen heartbreak "you aint saying nothing that I don't already know, when you say loves dimming light won't shine on tomorrow." And finally we've got Moments - maybe RHPs finest hour - as the song builds from a simple refrain, Kozelek lays his cards on the table "I'd love to come home to see you....but then you'd know how much I really need you" and explodes into the saddest chorus ever "All the love in an instant makes my life stop." Sheer genius.
This is not indie schmindie nonsense either - these songs are radio classics. Of all the undiscovered gems out there, this is surely the shiniest.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 November 2013
To simply describe the Red House Painters as a sort of melancholic folky-indie band would be to sell them way short. In this album they have produced a seamless, absorbing and strangely enchanting piece of work that draws the listener in and sustains interest all the way through the nine tracks herein. It's all about mood. The whole project is crafted around the creation of atmosphere. Layered acoustic guitars, the love -lorn vocals, of Red house Painter in chief, Mark Kozeleck and sophisticated song writing and crystal clear production all make for a beautifully rich listening experience.

'Ocean Beach' is a great late night listen or for those moments when quiet introspection is called. This might just be one of the great post `break up' albums. Sadness, regret and loss are all feelings explored here with sensitivity and courage yet avoiding mawkishness or extravagant emotional outbursts. There is much to enjoy on this disc, but the tracks I particularly enjoy are the bouncy guitar instrumental `Cabzeon', the wistful 'Summer Dress' and the poignant `Brockwell Park', but be sure to know, there is no filler to be found anywhere on this disc. Recommended.
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on 16 July 2006
These introspective ballads are tinged with sadness and founded on sentimentality. The vocal style and lyrical content make RHP distinctive. The deceptively unrepresentative instrumental opener is surpassed by 'Summer Dress', a memory lane trip with a passionate, violin enhanced climax. Generally vocals are almost monotone chanting and the guitar works on chord repetition. The restrained strumming is discretely complimented with subtle sounds that give the album hidden depths. Surprises include the piano in 'Shadows', a short sad song, beautifully finished. 'Over My Head' transforms from song to a welcome jazz improvisation. Red Carpet's migrates into a familiar three chord wonder. Brockwell Park's Simon & Garfunkel feel does not diminish it's novelty. Moments slow climb from acoustic to electric with a neat bass line throughout is nearly always retrained to leave the acoustic in the fore. The final, 13 minute, anthem of a -miss you / if only- song is pure to the theme.
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on 10 February 2003
This album is so chilled out it can't fail to have a relaxing effect on you. Not sure why the above review only gave it 3 stars but said it was good. Songs like summer dress and shadows are simply beautiful. Ok it may be a bit bleak, well that's the way the RHP are, but that's not a bad thing. Simply one of the best cd's to unwind to, surely it's worth a try.
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on 25 October 2000
Ocean Beach is one of the Painters finest,Mark Kozeleks songwriting genius floats to the fore within this collection of tracks.The brilliant sadness of "moments" and "Drop" must be heard to be believed.The bands unsurpassed guitar work and musical ability throughout the album make it complete,this is poetry set to music. A must buy for all men who have loved!!
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on 15 February 2015
VG
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