Lou Barlow's output is something to behold. Across albums with Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh and Folk Implosion, as well as a string of side- and solo-projects (some released as Sentridoh, some released under his own name), Barlow's explored a lot of territory. Much like 2005's Emoh, Barlow's latest album splits its time between acoustic-centered folk songs, layered pop-rock, and crafted studio production. The album opens with the hard-charging "Sharing" and the electric bash of "Goodnight Unknown," but Barlow's voice also takes turns in dreamy sing-song, penetrating directness and confessional angst.
His folk-pop influences are heard on the terrific "The One I Call," melding the sweetness of Donovan with the questioning of Cat Stevens. The morning drowsiness of "Take Advantage" is juxtaposed with the looping percussion of "The Right" and staccato rhythm of "Gravitate." Barlow's lyrics are often poetically abstract, but the booklet's background images suggest themes of temptation, greed, confusion, discovery, ambivalence, self-loathing, patience and seeking. There is both venal opportunism and contented love here, but if you're looking for finely drawn character portraits or story songs, look elsewhere.
In a making-of video that accompanies the album's release, Barlow mentions that his new album reminds him of the Folk Implosion's One Part Lullaby, an album recorded upon Barlow's relocation to Los Angeles, a city whose "concept" nagged him. The anxiety and ambivalence induced by his new environment remains in `Faith in Your Heartbeat," as well as in the wide-swinging dynamic range of the album. With musical assistance from drummer Dale Crover (Melvins), guitarist Imaad Wasif (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Barlow creates acoustic ballads, driving rock tunes and thumping studio productions that will sing your anxieties to sleep. 3-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]