Top positive review
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Sad-Core At It's Most Glorious
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.