Sometimes Sebadoh, sometimes rock ‘n’ ro’, sometimes Emoh, always Barlow

While I have already noted the subjectivity of some of my rankings, I must point out that [in error] I omitted Lou Barlow’s Emoh from out best of the decade list.

Shortly after I met Greg, Lou released Emoh and Greg the ‘Band Evangelist‘ went about formally introducing me to the Gospel of Lou Barlow.  Since then, Lou’s various incarnations—Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh (and Sentridoh to a lesser extent), The Folk Implosion, solo Lou Barlow—have occupied a place both deep in my heart and oft played in my music library.  Lou Barlow, on top of the whole lo-fi signature, is a great songwriter.  His music is intensely personal and honest in a Neil Young and Elliott Smith sort of way.  On top of both the lo-fi signature and the songwriting, Lou is extremely musically creative – his recent use of more complex musical arrangements always catches me off-guard.  So if I could add another album to my list of favourite albums of the first decade of the 21st century I would most certainly add Emoh (and it would occupy a spot in the top ten).  I mean, who else could cover Ratt so well?

Some of my favourite Barlow-related material to listen to if you have yet to do so:

Albums

  • Dinosaur (1985) Dinosaur Jr. – This was Dinosaur Jr.’s first album.  It’s very hardcore/protogrunge/all over the place and that’s probably why I’m in love with it.  Essentialness: 9
  • You’re Living All Over Me (1987) Dinosaur Jr. – This album is a lot more coherent with itself and more obviously an album as a whole while retaining some of the edginess of DinosaurEssentialness: 8.5
  • III (1991) Sebadoh – As one can deduce from the title, this was Sebadoh’s third album and like the reissue of their first record, 1989’s The Freed Man, the reissue has a second CD-worth of additional tracks, some good, some meh.  Still, there are enough gems on this lo-fi masterpiece to consider it such.  Essentialness: 9.5
  • Bubble and Scrape (1993) Sebadoh – This album marks a turning point in Lou’s musical career.  The excessively lo-fi and haphazard style for which he was known was traded for a more refined and musically complex (and longer) songs.  Essentialness: 10
  • Bakesake (1994) Sebadoh – This album, along with 1996’s Harmacy, is worth owning, especially if the earlier lo-fi material is too inaccessible for one’s taste.  These records contain plenty of catchy choruses and guitar riffs to make good mainstream records while remaining unique and unconventional thanks to Lou’s songwriting.  Essentialness: 8.5
  • Emoh (2005) Lou Barlow – This album is Lou’s first solo album.  Each track is incredibly well written and as a whole represent a synthesis of everything that makes Lou Barlow amazing, some of which include his songwriting, engaging arrangements, noise/screwing around on a 4-track between songs.  The second track on the record is entitled ‘Home’, which spelled backwards is Emoh – I see a connection!  Essentialness: 9.5
  • Farm (2009) Dinosaur Jr – In 2005, the three original members of Dinosaur Jr. (J Mascis, Murph and Lou Barlow) regrouped and recorded their ‘comeback’ Beyond in 2007.  Farm ended up the better record of the two, though I prefer more Lou and less J Mascis.  Essentialness: 8.5
  • Goodnight Unknown (2009) Lou Barlow – This album was on Greg’s Best of 2009 and my honourable mentions for Best of 2009, but the more I listen the more I hear how incredible a follow-up to Emoh this record truly is.  Essentialness: 9.5

As a added bonus, because his [early] albums are oftentimes inconsistent, here are Greg & my Top 30 Lou Barlow Tracks (in alphabetical order):

  1. ‘Back To Your Heart’ – Dinosaur Jr. (Beyond)
  2. ‘Brand New Love’ – Sebadoh (The Freed Weed, 1990)
  3. ‘Caterpillar Girl’ – Lou Barlow (Emoh)
  4. ‘Cats in a Bowl’ – Dinosaur Jr. (Dinosaur, written by J Mascias, vocals by Lou)
  5. ‘Flame’ – Sebadoh (The Sebadoh)
  6. ‘Free To Go’ – The Folk Implosion (One Part Lullaby, 1999; American Beauty: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack, 1999)
  7. ‘The Freed Pig’ – Sebadoh (III)
  8. ‘Goodnight Unknown’ – Lou Barlow (Goodnight Unknown)
  9. ‘Home’ – Lou Barlow (Emoh)
  10. ‘Homemade’ – Sebadoh (Bubble and Scrape)
  11. ‘I Can’t See’ – Sebadoh (The Freed Weed)
  12. ‘Kath’ – Sebadoh (III)
  13. ‘Magnet’s Coil’ – Sebadoh (Bakesale)
  14. ‘Mary’ – Lou Barlow (Emoh)
  15. ‘Modesty’ – Lou Barlow (Goodnight Unknown)
  16. ‘Monkey Begun’ – Lou Barlow (Emoh)
  17. ‘None of Your Goddam Bizness’ – Sentridoh (Free Sentridoh: Songs from Loobiecore, 2002)
  18. ‘Not A Friend’ – Sebadoh (Bakesale)
  19. ‘Not Nice to Be Nice’ – Lou Barlow (Winning Losers: A Collection of Home Recordings 89-93, 1994)
  20. ‘One Machine, One Long Fight’ – Lou Barlow (Goodnight Unknown)
  21. ‘Paradise’ – Lou Barlow (Loobiecore MP3s)
  22. ‘Poledo’ – Dinosaur Jr. (You’re Living All Over Me)
  23. ‘Spoiled’ – Sebadoh (III)
  24. ‘Strange Love’ – Sentridoh (The Original Losing Losers, 1995)
  25. ‘Think (Let Tomorrow Bee)’ – Sebadoh (Bubble and Scrape)
  26. ‘Too Much Freedom’ – Lou Barlow (Goodnight Unknown)
  27. ‘Total Peace’ – Sebadoh (III)
  28. ‘Truly Great Thing’ – Sebadoh (III)
  29. ‘Willing to Wait’ – Sebadoh (Harmacy)
  30. ‘Your Weather’ – Dinosaur Jr. (Farm)

And here’s Lou Barlow’s ‘vast and confusing website‘ to keep yourself well-occupied for 30-120 minutes.

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About Elijah

My name is Elijah and I am a proud Angeleño-Glaswegian. I serve as Minister of Queen's Park Govanhill Parish Church. My other interests include life in active community, writing, performing and partaking of music, collecting vinyl records, hiking/outdoors, urban exploration, Celtic FC and the Detroit Tigers.

6 responses to “Sometimes Sebadoh, sometimes rock ‘n’ ro’, sometimes Emoh, always Barlow”

  1. Greg says :

    Oh shoot, I don’t want to start any static here with my brilliant colleague, but I’m not actually a huge fan of Emoh!

    Over half the songs did not even merit 4 star ranking on my iTunes…so I couldn’t rank it in the top of the 2000’s (it wasn’t even in my best of 2005!).

    Here’s the songs I love & recommend from Emoh:
    5 star = ‘Mary’ (heretical in every way possible, but equally beautiful)
    4 star = ‘Holding Back the Year’, ‘Caterpillar Girl’, ‘If I Could’, ‘Confused’ (‘Puzzle’ is like a 3 1/2)

  2. Elijah says :

    Greg,
    That’s a crying shame. I really think you need to give it another go. I actually think ‘Mary’ is one of my least favourites (though it still earned four stars)! I think that ‘Round-N-Round’ and ‘Confused’ are among the weaker tracks (take that, ‘Confused’!). The rest are fours and fives (and I don’t give those out easily). I really think ‘Home’ and ‘Monkey Begun’ are incredible tracks.

    I’m pretty certain that the issue here is a stylistic one. There are some ‘singer/songwriter’ tracks on Goodnight Unknown that I just don’t get that into because that’s not really my style, whereas you probably hold those closest to your heart.

  3. Greg says :

    I’m glad you re-directed me to ‘Monkey’ – it IS good (I think perhaps some of the minor key melodies weren’t hitting my sugary pop spot). I wasn’t a fan of the drum loop in ‘Home’ but it is quite pretty. Man, I need to re-listen to this album!

    PS. I love how this is our little conversation. I miss you buddy!

  4. Mark says :

    Bakesale and Harmacy are my favorite. And Willing to Wait would rank much higher for me. Glad you like Lou… you know he was the inspiration for Ryan Barlow, yeah? Available on iTunes!!!

  5. Greg says :

    The list was alphabetical, Boojsh…

    Ryan Barlow did a pretty spot on cover of ‘Willing to Wait’ if you ask me.

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