Red House Painters (Rollercoaster)

(1993), 8.5/10
The first of two self titled albums that Red House Painters released in 1993; this album is also referred to as Rollercoaster due to the cover image. It’s not as raw and incisive as Down Colorful Hill, but it’s markedly more mature and there’s some sublime material here. Like a lot of albums from the 1990s, it suffers from CD bloat – it would have been a great 40 minute album, but there are a clutch of uninteresting songs in the middle that drag. Setting the mood is the gorgeous opener ‘Grace Cathedral Park’, while ‘Katy Song’ is a delicate and heartfelt ballad. ‘Mistress’ appears in two different guises; in the fourth track as an aggressive rocker, and in the fourth to last track as a minimalist piano ballad. ‘New Jersey’ was improved as a full band arrangement on the next record, but the acoustic version is still strong, while the pretty ‘Dragonflies’ is another winner. ‘Strawberry Hill’ is melodramatic but still highly effective, getting a lot of mileage out of the lengthy two chord verses opening into a lush harmonised chorus. An edited version would be a career highlight, but even in this more lengthy form, it’s still the highlight of Kozelek’s early career.

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