Feb 9, 2005 at 12:00 am

Sebadoh sort of fizzled in the late ’90s, and the Folk Implosion was always a barely .500 team. But the spottiness of his recent work only makes Lou Barlow’s Emoh better. The veteran misanthrope has quietly crafted some of his most cohesive work to date. “We were simply buried alive,” he sings in “Puzzle,” “And then you left me/If only in your eyes.” It’s a classic Lou lyric. But instead of tape hiss, its Richard Thompson elegance is accompanied by gorgeous cello. “Caterpillar Girl” and “Confused” are kicky, dynamic indie pop songs, the kind of material 21st century Beck is lauded for writing when Lou’s been doing it for years. And while the album’s title jabs at one of music’s more ridiculous terms, Emoh is more important in reverse. “Holding Back the Year,” “Monkey Begun” and the
apt “Home” are structural cousins to past work, but resonate with the thoughts, feelings and words of a more mature person. He’s still sardonic, selfish and plaintive all at once; still most comfortable spinning his fractured relationship poetry over the spare keen of an acoustic guitar. But Emoh buffs those components’ surfaces, so we can see Lou Barlow’s adult face in the reflection.

Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].