Before he was 100% annoying, Mark Kozelek was only 95% annoying and the other 5% was dedicated to making very special music.
Some of that came in the early Sun Kil Moon days, but most of the magic lives on in old Red House Painters records, his decidedly slowcore band. They made two self-titled opuses of dragged-out misery rock with greyscale guitar tones (Red House Painters / Rollercoaster and Red House Painters / Bridge) before moving on to the folksier outro of their existence, paving the way for Kozelek's more pastoral current sound.
You could tell from the off that Kozelek came from a lineage of songwriters: he would cover songs Paul McCartney wrote for Wings and do beefed-up versions of Simon & Garfunkel songs, letting them live on his records like nothing strange was afoot. His favourite rockers, though, might have been taken aback by the dour vision of his music: the band's debut, Down Colourful Hill, is a gruelling listen heavy on reverb, staring at the walls in desperation. The band's double-whammy of self-titled records remain revered classics, instructive of how to make music sound heavy and unhappy and yet full of beauty.
If Ocean Beach showed a gentler folkier side of the band, Songs For a Blue Guitar was the moment where Kozelek's lengthy guitar solos and eccentric cover versions led to a parting of the ways with his label 4AD. Stuck in label limbo land their swan song Old Ramon only appeared in 2001 by which time Kozelek had plotted his future as Sun Kil Moon leading to an initial stellar run of records before he became a kind of musical diarist and troll.
Mixing a folksy sound with hints of an embryonic shoegaze, Red House Painters became that band to beat, one with the touch of subtlety every other band wanted.