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CD Review: Lou Barlow

Goodnight Unknown (Merge)

In the ever-shifting spheres of indie and (semi-) popular music, today's It Boy/Girl is destined to be tomorrow's has-been. Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh's Lou Barlow doesn't have to worry about such petty things. Goodnight Unknown finds him in fine form, retaining the right stuff but also aging (a recurring theme) quite gracefully. The album begins with the roaring, pounding cadence of "Sharing," its mini-Wall of Sound production and haunting vocal melody sounding like Phil Spector producing latter-day Hüsker Dü. Barlow's hushed, diaphanous Nick Drake-like vocals are captivatingly winsome and wise-sounding on the medium-fast strummer "Too Much Freedom" (which includes some subtle country undertones) and the pensive yet oddly lilting "I'm Thinking ... ." Driven by acoustic guitars, the overall tone is folky and contemplative, yet Goodnight is zesty throughout, never lapsing into coffeehouse open-mic night self-absorption. — Mark Keresman

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