Lou Barlow – Goodnight Unknown

Lou Barlow is the sort of character who is legendary because he is legendary. It’s right and good to hold him in high esteem, because he’s important. But this is the first time I’ve ever sat down to review a Lou Barlow project (be it a Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, Folk Implosion, or solo project release), and I did it by imagining that I wasn’t listening to anyone I’d ever heard of.

Turns out that Lou Barlow’s still pretty good at writing songs. There are loud, clanging moments on “Goodnight Unknown” but it’s the quieter moments that shine this time around. Calm, pensive acoustic tracks are laid with subtle internal rhythm and Barlow’s soft voice accompanying. “Faith in Your Heartbeat” is an ethereal highlight, as well as following track “The One I Call,” which is optimistic in its calm mood.

In fact, the louder things get, the less enjoyable they get. Opener “Sharing” is grating and unpleasant in the face of lovely, breezy tunes like “Take Advantage.” Crunchy “The Right” is not nearly as enjoyable as the jaunty, stripped-down “I’m Thinking.” In short, if you can’t stop the rock, you can certainly diminish it, as Lou Barlow has done here.

“Goodnight Unknown” has fewer missteps than successes, which makes for a pleasant and enjoyable experience. This release doesn’t vault Lou Barlow in my mind to the status that is afforded him by many critics, but then again, I’m not sure what could. Definitely worth checking out if you like mellow, upbeat acoustic tunes with some brains.

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