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Lou Barlow: Goodnight Unknown


Lou Barlow

Album: Goodnight Unknown
Label: Merge

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In the years since Lou Barlow’s 2005 solo album EMOH, the indie-rock godfather has toured with his old bands Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr., recorded two superb LPs with the latter, and has seen his early Sebadoh albums re-released in deluxe editions. So it’s understandable that Barlow’s new solo release, Goodnight Unknown, finds him in a reflective mood, revisiting the various styles he’s attempted over the years. The album opens with the pounding, strummy rocker “Sharing,” which could pass for a later-period Sebadoh or early Dinosaur Jr. track, and throughout Goodnight Unknown, Barlow goes with what he knows, slipping clanging uptempo numbers between lo-fi acoustic ballads, some of which have been dressed up with stray bits of electronic noise, à la Barlow’s The Folk Implosion. Barlow fans should be happy with the way Goodnight Unknown sounds, but they should also recognize that its songs aren’t as memorable as Barlow’s best. Frequently, the addition of synthesizers or homemade percussion seems designed to mask maudlin lyrics or derivative melodies, while the best songs—like the swaying “The Right,” the spooky “I’m Thinking,” and the aching “One Note Tone”—tend to be more stripped-down. Ultimately, this is a settled, homey record. It’s heavy on the goodnight, but too light on the unknown.