Lou Barlow has been writing and recording songs, sometimes obsessively, for over 2 decades. His name is practically synonymous with this thing that some would call indie-rock. Hopefully we don’t have to waste too much time telling the back story. Barlow has been an integral force in some of the most successful and influential underground bands of the last two decades—Deep Wound, Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, The Folk Implosion. A Google search will provide plenty of background in two seconds. But the past is the past and the future is now. And now is the time for Emoh.
Emoh is for all practical purposes, the first official solo album by Lou Barlow. There have been other collections and compilations to be sure...some under his own name, some under the moniker of Sentridoh. But those parts did not always make up an integral whole. Collections of songs, often recorded under the sparsest of conditions, do not always an album make. Emoh is an album. Conceived and executed as such, and it is a wonder to behold.
Recorded in studios as far flung as western Massachusetts, Nashville and Los Angeles, Emoh captures the essence of a talent that has made Lou Barlow one of the most respected and influential songwriters of his generation. There are not a lot of bells and whistles here, no extended guitar solos, no studio trickery or production gloss—which is not to say that production is anything less than extraordinary. The songs are distilled to their essence, acoustic guitar with subtle flourishes—cellos here, pianos there, tape loops and sparse percussion—all meticulously crafted, capturing the listener’s attention without distracting from the most important thing...the songs themselves. And these songs are signature Barlow— full of emotion, angst, hope, intelligence and a wry sense of humor. For good measure Lou throws in his own interpretation of a classic hair metal anthem of the 80’s, which is priceless to say the least. He gets some help here and there from a variety of friends, including former band mates Jason Lowenstein (Sebadoh), Imaad Wasif (The Folk Implosion) and Russ Pollard (Sebadoh, The Folk Implosion).
Lou Barlow might not be a household name, but in the world of indie-rock he is a superstar; no matter that this probably makes very little difference to him. But music this good, this subtle, this honest, this damn catchy, deserves an audience, the larger the better. One listen and you will know. Pop songs don’t get much better than this. Lou Barlow is here to stay. And we are all a little bit better off as a result.