Though the two are separated by only a year, RED HOUSE PAINTERS ups the group's ante considerably from DOWN COLORFUL HILL. Many of the songs are more concisely written, the arrangements are more fully realized, and there's a greater dynamic range. The agenda remains largely the same though; Mark Kozelek still sounds like someone who needs to be watched closely around sharp objects, and bleak, dreamy folk-rock is still the name of the game. Romantic dejection is a favorite topic, unflinchingly documented on "Katy's Song" and several others.The mix of complex acoustic finger-picking and soft, airy electric guitar provides the perfect latticework for Kozelek's tales of spiritual desolation, though bits of inspired distortion do kick in occasionally. A few songs even boast hooks--"Mistress" is so (relatively) catchy the band decided to present it in two different versions here, both equally effective. Though there are several shorter tunes, the slowly building epic is still the Painters' stock in trade, and a highlight is the creeping, 13-minute psychedelic nightmare of "Mother."