Lou Barlow's 'Brace The Wave'... A Minimalistic Masterpiece
This is the first solo album after a six year gap from former founding member of Dinosaur Jr. Lou Barlow has had a fair amount of varying output under different guises, but only two solo albums prior to this.
It’s clearly folk, but with Barlow’s trademark lo-fi twist to it… he has the instrument (plucky little de-tuned ukulele) and the frank and straightforward voice, but the phrasing and the tone on some of these songs is downright metallic rock. It sounds real and true and utterly beautiful. The genius part is that it was all recorded in less than a week with some of it being written during that process.
The sparseness of some of the songs is echoed in the one word song titles of each of the nine songs. It’s a thoughtful reflection of existence and change, and tracks such as ‘Wave’ with its earnest opening of ‘I miss you, I want you here, in my arms and in my hair’ and its ongoing refrain of bracing the wave, seem to sum up this album of accepting the fluctuations of life.
‘C & E’, one of the more traditional folksy kind of songs on the album is so stripped back that it’s almost not there. The recurring theme of emergence from despair to a hope-filled future is again plain to hear. Lou’s vocals lead the way on this track and there’s virtually no need for any additional accompaniment. It’s something I could listen to continually without it becoming jaded.
The introduction on track three ‘Moving’ takes me back to my teenage forays of learning to play the guitar and the kind of picked out repetitive chord changes that I used to practice. Of course this is way more intricate than I ever managed, and the vocals then come in and change this from delicate and pretty into murky gnarliness. And then it shifts once more into a more upbeat chorus.
Stand out tracks for me are the two minimalistic pure folk songs ‘C & E’ and ‘Lazy’ both of which I can imagine being sung around a campfire in a forest clearing under a cloudless, moonlit sky. Delightful. I’m guessing that scenario will have to stay within the realms of my imagination, so the next best thing would be to see Barlow performing these songs in a small intimate (London) venue. Hopefully soon.
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Words by Mary Long