Compilations. A tough one. Obviously, great way to discover some great music, also a great way to ignore some slow-burners. Enraptured with 4AD's 25th anniversary events last Autumn, I listened eagerly to the 1980 Forward album: just look at the tracklisting, you see how I could gloss over some of the less-known (to me) artists when there's Throwing Muses, Belly, Pixies, The Birthday Party, TV On The Radio, Cocteau Twins... Easily done. So praise be to the random play all of yesterday, for later on (well after the Bonnie Prince), the shuffle function threw up another overlooked gem.
Red House Painters released their more seminal early albums on 4AD back at the end of the 80's/beginning of the 90's, including Ocean Beach, from which the compilation cut, Summer Dress, is taken. Earlier material tended towards the slowcore of peers like, say, Galaxie 500, but the tone was far more personal - try the lyrics for Medicine Bottle, for example, a post-breakup streamofconsciousness notable for it's heartbreaking realism and brutal honesty, as well as it's as-the-thoughts-come structure. By the time Ocean Beach was released, the music was more conventional in some ways - an almost alt.country confessional style, and the deeply personal lyrics were refined into a more subtle, pastoral style. But the music's equally beautiful, and Summer Dress is very much a part of that - coming from Mark Kozelek's heart-on-sleeve background, this is a pretty love song which doesn't expand it's initial thoughts far, but benefits from just that.
summer dress makes you more beautiful than the rest
The more I look at the lyrics, the more I listen to the song, the more I'm convinced that this is how a love song should be written. It's not glossy or sanitized, but raw and delicate. It's not schlocky in the slightest, it's sweet and nice. It's not Hollywood romance, it's tinged with sadnesses and regrets, it's wistful, it makes you want to purse your lips together, half-smile and nod in sympathy.
PS - did I mention this week's Contrast Podcast? I don't think I did. Listen. I contributed White Lines to the Happy Happy Joy Joy theme. I'm so perverse sometimes, mmm cocaine.
Red House Painters - Summer Dress
Artist: Red House Painters
Recommended: Red House Painters - Ocean Beach; Various - 1980 Forward
More: Hype Machine; elbo.ws
If you like this you might like: Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker
Tags: Red House Painters; Sun Kil Moon; Mark Kozelek; Ocean Beach; acoustic