Its a peculiar thing, the songs that you come to associate with a singular event in your life. I still recall hearing Good Vibrations and Under the Bridge shortly after my dad’s passing in early 2010s, both superimposed over a wintry Boston landscape. Nothing, however, comes close to symbolizing the event for me than Between Days by Red House Painters, whatnot with peculiar timing of it turning up on the radio around the same time.
Closure, sense of closure, however partial/temporary it might be. That’s what you often don’t get while dealing with grief and that’s what makes it so crushing and devastating in the end. There’s platitudes and usual small souvenirs on offer to anyone going through a rough patch, but by far and large I don’t believe we’re well equipped to talk openly about grief of losing someone close/loved one or even just dealing with torrent of bad news from the world outside. So if people won’t do it the music might and this particular song got plenty of reasons to do so.
While fairly upbeat by the band’s standards, Between Days evokes plenty of melancholy, even if in some oblique/abstract way
Void of movement, void of feeling, void of life
Shadows crackles Spanish churches in the night
Don’t feel sour in the far window there
Don’t be bothered by the words in your head
When the sun goes down and just a night
This will bring up pretty, some old fly
And make what’s dead come alive
For the long and lonely ride
Old Ramon, The LP that Between Days came from, also symbolizes a certain passage. It was the last thing that RHP recorded before morphing into Sun Kil Moon and that band, in turn, became a solo vehicle for Mark Kozelek, the band’s founder. So metaphorically speaking Red House Painters died in order for Kozelek’s other projects to live and thrive.
Sadly these days Mark is better known for his sexual assault allegations and excessive trolling than his songwriting. While deeply disturbing, none of those diminish the power of Red House Painters and that band’s ability to build a shelter in the time of need. Listening to downer/upper combo of “Katy Song” / “Mistress” off of the self-titled aka Rollercoaster or their cover of “Shock Me” by Kiss makes it abundantly clear why Kozelek is hailed as one of the finest songwriters of his generation.
SWS, another band I allude to in the headline, is Soulwhirlingsomewhere, solo outing of Michael Plaster from Phoenix, AZ. I discovered SWS long before I discovered Red House Painters through a juggernaut of an album that is Please Sennd Help.
However, its only through diving into RHPs catalog recently that I discovered similarities between two bands. Both were signed to like-minded labels (Projekt/4AD) and songs written by both resemble nothing less than grand gothic cathedrals with their heavy emphasis on noir/atmosphere. Both also have DNA of Cocteau Twins embedded into their songwriting.
A piece that represents Soulwhirlingsomewhere the best to me is “When Palm and Finger Was All” off of 1995 “Everyone Will Eventually Leave You” with its gorgeous acoustics and swirling (no pun intended) ambience. As another musician put it to me once all the losses we suffer are beautiful in a sense because they make us more grounded and that is some fine parting wisdom for this rant as well.