Red House Painters' Mark Kozelek has contributed to many compilations, indie soundtracks, dance troupe theater pieces, and tribute albums, as well as recorded prodigiously, even if plenty remains in the can. As such, it can be difficult for less than absolutely fanatical fans to keep straight. The Finally LP is an attempt to organize some of this loose material into some sort of coherent whole. These ten tracks clock in at just over half an hour, their sole unifying factor is Kozelek's approach: his mournful monotone singing voice, his open, high-ended, fingerpicked guitar style, his willingness to double track his voice without using harmonies, and a general airiness in the mix. These tracks are almost all covers with two exceptions: "Piano Song," a previously unreleased cut from 2006, and the gorgeous title track to the short film Gaping Mouth. The rest are covers, such as the title cut, written by outsider singer/songwriter Kath Bloom off a tribute album to her called Loving Takes Its Course, which may be among the finest things here. There are absurd covers, as well, such as his reading of Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns," contributed to the Musicians for Minneapolis: 57 Songs for the I-35 Bridge Disaster Relief Effort album. His reading of the tune is so sophomoric, it makes Frank Sinatra's seem humorous by comparison. Low's "Lazy" is here from their tribute album, Kozelek's version is recorded on a 12-string and is almost uptempo -- certainly more so than the original. The other absurdity on this compilation is the oft-bootlegged, dreadful cover of AC/DC's "If You Want Blood" recorded in 2002, live on Antena 3 Radio in Lisbon (in part supporting his own album of covers by the band). It doesn't add anything to the wonderfully anthemic, rage-fueled rocker. Instead it detracts, and caters to all the downtrodden, living-in-their-bedroom, overly emotional punters who live for this kind of maudlin nonsense disguised as sensitivity. Other cuts fare far better, especially when they aren't too far afield from Kozelek's own ethos: Will Oldham's "New Partner," which originally appeared on I Am a Cold Rock, I Am Dull Grass (you guessed it: a tribute to Oldham). There is another amazing bootlegged track here: Kozelek's version of Bob Mould's "Celebrated Summer," which originally appeared on Hüsker Dü's New Day Rising album. In this case, given Mould's own deeply introspective bent -- despite the power chords and overdriven punk ethos -- Kozelek gets at something hidden by the bombast in the original. He uncovers Mould's real tenderness, something the latter has done himself on many subsequent albums. Kozelek gets at the nostalgia without an unnecessary romanticism and brings out the genuine empathy and sense of gentle irony in the lyric, as well as offering a dead-on view of the melodic sensibility of Mould. The bottom line here, of course, is if you are a fan, you'll need this and won't debate its merit one way or another. If you're new to Kozelek, you'll no doubt be wowed by some of this and bored by the rest.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek