Lou Barlow: Brace The Wave

James Brown may have been “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” but Lou Barlow is unquestionably “The Hardest Working Man in Indie Rock”! Having seen him live twice with two different bands (Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr.) within the span of just 4 months is a small indication of his hectic schedule in a year that saw him turn 49. Brace the Wave is a homecoming both literally and figuratively. After living in Los Angeles for the better part of the last two decades, Barlow returned “home” to Massachusetts where his solo project better known as Sentridoh first began. Brace the Wave sees Barlow return home geographically (recorded with Dinosaur Jr. engineer Justin Pizzoferrato at Sonelab studios in Easthampton, MA) but also to his signature baritone ukulele accompanied by his painfully earnest and often autobiographical lyrics.

In the almost eponymous track titled “Wave”, Barlow croons “thank you for your love girl, on it I rely. Never leave me hungry, never leave me dry. Brace the wave. Brace the wave.” He then pleads in repetition “I’ll leave you alone, but don’t go! I’ll leave you alone, but don’t go!” each time in increasing urgency. Although there were moments of raw acoustic emotion on his last solo album “Goodnight Unknown” from 2009, even tracks like “The One I Call” were too shiny and polished to evoke the real gut wrenching quality captured in his early Sentridoh recordings. Brace The Wave is, in essence, a return to his very first song writing ventures with Deep Wound and as Barlow himself describes it “Here it is, ‘Lou’s Anxiety Song(s)’ 2015, less fretful, still restless.”

“The story of my innocence is brief” admits Barlow without reservation on the first track entitled “Redeemed.” This return to form finds Barlow returning to his roots while evolving his sound to reflect his growth, musically and personally.  Fans of Sentridoh and Lou Barlow’s solo ventures will find Brace the Wave to be familiar while celebrating his fresh new sounds and lyrics.  Like a savvy framing device employed by a brilliant film director Barlow leaves us with a track entitled “Repeat”.  Crooning that “her temper is a fragile thing, a beast when you’re alone. With words of steel and disbelief implied a heart of stone.”  Even the hardest of hearts is sure to soften after a listen or two to this honest and sincere record.

Rating: 8.4/10

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