Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Red House Painters - Ocean Beach


Mark Kozelek has definitely made some downer music. But there is a calming and reassuring tone in his voice that always holds the music just above water. That said, Mark’s musical ship seems to have finally landed with Ocean Beach.

Dang, that came out wrong.

Let me try again.

What I mean by that, is I no longer feel like I’m drifting along aimlessly and hopelessly, with no urgency and no real end to look forward to, as I have in other of Mark’s work. That isn’t to say that Mark isn’t still a melancholy sap (I mean that in the best of ways, I promise). He is. But now he’s let the sun break through just a little on the music that serves as the backdrop for his soul-searching poetry. And I have to say, it’s more than refreshing.

The beats are a little more bouncy, the instrumentation a little more colorful, and the ideas a little more concise. And yet, the lyrics are still very sad and melancholy. The conflicting tones make for an interesting listen.

Take “Over My Head” for example. The beat is optimistic, the guitars gliding along in a beautiful melody, and here’s what Mark sings over it:

“Sometimes you get so alone without a friend. It’s hard to know who you are, and to pretend.”

You tend to stop happily bobbing your head at that point.

No, but really, this album manages to be both beautiful and sad, and I ultimately come out of it with a sense of warm appreciation for my life, friends, and everything I love in life. “Drop” is my all time favorite Red House Painters song, and it superbly ends what is, for my money, the best album Mark Kozelek has ever released.

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