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Sarah Tomlinson

Lou Barlow EMOH

Lo-fi pioneer Lou Barlow is nothing if not candid. That approach applies both to his literate, heartfelt songwriting for seminal indie-rock bands Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and the Folk Implosion, and to the barbs he aimed at his former bandmates after they parted ways. And so he uses the title of his first proper solo album to play with his dubious distinction as the godfather of emo. It’s a fitting moment for Barlow to toy with his legacy, as he reveals himself here to be a more assured artist and musician than ever before. Much as ”Sea Change” announced a mature and sophisticated Beck, Barlow has outgrown overt cleverness in favor of gorgeously subtle music. Although largely recorded alone with an acoustic guitar and simple tape loops, the album features former bandmates Jason Lowenstein (Sebadoh) and Imaad Wasif (the Folk Implosion). It also showcases engaging ruminations set to lovely melodies, as well as Barlow’s more richly resonant vocals, on the delicately melancholy ”Legendary,” the simple love song ”If I Could,” and the slyly humorous ”Monkey Begun.” His understated touch is perhaps best exemplified when he transforms Ratt’s ”Round and Round” into a poignant ballad. Barlow has already proved his knack for making moving and amusing music. Now he shows what can result when intelligence and feeling are married with practiced craft.