7. Red House Painters – Down Colorful Hill (1992)
Red House Painters, led by Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon notoriety, were incredibly consistent on an album-to-album basis. Unsurprisingly, there’s been plenty of debate concerning which record represents the band’s pinnacle. 1993’s Red House Painters (aka Rollercoaster) is their epic, while Ocean Beach, released in 1995, boasts some of Kozelek’s best melodies. However, it’s the band’s 1992 debut, Down Colorful Hill, which qualifies as 4AD’s most haunting record ever (no small feat, as this is the label that signed such dark-hearted acts as Bauhaus, Dead Can Dance, and Clan of Xymox). Sparer and more musically primitive than later Red House Painters releases, this collection of early demos weds an atmosphere of bleak, near-gothic melodrama to aggressively confessional lyrics. It’s an unnerving tactic, to be sure, but it amounts to a desolation that still feels singular, even within Kozelek’s considerable discography.