Essential Album: Red House Painters – Songs For a Blue Guitar

This afternoon we’re debuting what will be another new feature on Tympanogram – the Essential Album.  What “Essential Album” entails is that this is an album that absolutely should be in your collection.  Not simply one or two songs, but the whole thing.  After you’re done reading the post, we recommend that you go and buy it.  In fact, don’t even wait.  Go and buy it now, and listen while you read.  If you miss a post, there’s a handy page at the top of the site where you can get up-to-date.

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Here is a statement of fact that has no bearing on the remainder of the post, but is one which may call into question whether or not we should be making claims as to what is an Essential Album: neither of the editors of this blog own a copy of Thriller. I personally have a couple of tracks from the album, specifically “PYT (Pretty Young Thing)” and “Human Nature” (because there was a time about a year ago that I was hopelessly obsessed with Yacht Rock)– but that’s it. Huh.

I remember the first time I heard Red House Painters; it was January of my sophomore year of college, and the Rochester winter was pissing slush on the city. I was sad about a girl, and I was driving around in my 1989 Mercury Topaz feeling sorry for myself when “Have You Forgotten” came on the radio. This seems like it could be a lie, but I swear it’s the truth. My strength renewed, I drove straight to Media Play, bought Songs for a Blue Guitar and drove home to listen to it for the remainder of the winter. Somewhere in the middle of the epic “Make Like Paper” or making my father listen to “Silly Love Songs” I turned out OK. (My father’s response to the cover?: Him: When did Paul McCartney write ‘Silly Love Songs’? Me: I don’t know. Him: Every year since 1960.)

Listening to Red House Painters takes a lot out of me. They’re emotionally draining, slow and deliberate, and can only be experienced once in a while. But for a patient, thoughtful listener, they’re a rewarding musical experience. Maybe you’re like Barry and can’t listen to sad bastard music; I don’t blame you. Red House Painters aren’t for everyone.  At the very least, however, you should have more than a cursory knowledge of Songs for a Blue Guitar.  I once had a girl remark, while listening to the cover of “All Mixed Up,” that “Oh! It’s the Gap song!”  Don’t let that be you.  Don’t let Gap’s marketing department be cooler than you.

Red House Painters – All Mixed Up (mp3) from Songs for a Blue Guitar

Red House Painters – Make Like Paper (mp3) from Songs for a Blue Guitar

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