This is my first encounter with Red House Painters and…wait a minute, it’s not? Apparently I positively reviewed their debut in 2017 but I have zero memory of that. I know from my review and from looking at the track listings that the debut is a different beast than this record but I wish I could remember that first one. I’m sure it would change the way I feel about this.
So, I don’t quite get it: everything about this record is pleasant enough and there are moments that are mildly compelling, but I’m listening to this record and looking at the widespread critical acclaim and I’m confused. So the guy’s songs are reasonably catchy. That’s fine. But this is the 58th best album of the 1990s? What a weird idea.
The best word I can conjure up for this truly is pleasant. Even when the distorted guitars come in, they remain pleasant. If I listened to his words more, maybe I wouldn’t think it so pleasant, maybe I’d find it somber or something but one of the major issues of slowcore is how it just lulls you in. It’s possible that, with many more listens, I’d come to love some of these songs, and start insisting that the record is very good, or something like that. But slowcore is not immediate and this record is the mostly whatever the opposite of immediate is.
The songs are decent, I can’t really quibble with the arrangements and I think the production is pretty good. But it doesn’t move me, you know? I don’t think about it much after it’s over. So that’s one reason why I find the idea that it is a Top 60 album of the 1990s to be laughable. Another reason is: context matters. Slowcore exited for quite some time in 1995. Why is this particularly professional-sounding version of slowcore important? I can’t tell you by listening to it.