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Lou Barlow: Goodnight Unknown

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Goodnight Unknown, Lou Barlow's second solo album, is less of the grand personal statement that was Emoh and more like a lost Sebadoh album. Here, the posturing of a songwriter with a capital S gives way to a patchwork of comfortable pop tunes. "Sharing" jumps to life with a punk beat, but as the title track unfolds, the mood becomes serene. "Too Much Freedom" embraces folk(ish) form, driving the album's austere moments. "One Machine, One Long Flight" revisits the spirit of slacker insurrection like a fond memory, while "The Right" carries the fey confusion of the Sebadoh classic "Rebound." The album's strengths lie in its tamed, not-so-lo-fi sound qualities over Barlow's ability to deliver such a lingering phrase as "modesty will prevail/but modesty won't provide," without being a total downer. Adulthood has mellowed the emotional hooligan, but Barlow is aging gracefully. (Merge) 4 stars out of 5

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