Album offers great acoustic style and swift little tunes wrapped up in an indie-folk bow
Sometimes going back home is what we need during certain parts of our lives, especially if you’ve been away for a long time. Home comes back to you when you need it most, which is what led Lou Barlow to his newest album, Reason to Live. Barlow, an indie-rock musician previously associated with Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh and more, relocated his family from Los Angeles to Massachusetts, a place that Barlow thinks of as home.
Reason To Live is filled with folksy rhythms and tunes, from a warm strum of an acoustic guitar to the sandy texture of Barlow’s voice. The album has 17 songs in total, each never reaching more than four minutes in length. Don’t be fooled though, these tiny tunes back a punch—that being a soft, gentle, acoustic punch. They’re delightfully sweet in their sound, and they don’t shy away from having powerful lyrics that tell a story, even if that story is a short one.
“In My Arms” appears as the first song on the album, which quite literally envelopes the listener in a deep, musical hug. It brings together all the best elements of folk music, including sentimental lyrics and a lovely acoustic beat. The title song, “Reason To Live,” follows behind, creating an even lighter sound than its predecessor. Its lyrics are sweet but show a sense of wisdom. “When they make amends, we’ll be holding hands, strong as any wall that stands. Go ravage the earth, to make it a home… From my heart to my hunger, talk about a reason to live.” It’s whimsical and gentle but in a way that gets the point of the song across to the listener.
Deeper into the album, people get “Love Intervene,” which was previously released as a single. In the context of the current year, “Love Intervene” goes perfectly with the times people are living in. Through different battles of life, Barlow demands in his lyrics that, “love intervene, please show us the way. Love intervene today.” Another single off the album is “Over You,” a song that sounds a bit more melancholy in sound in comparison to the optimistic “Love Intervene.” “Over You” is quick, coming in at a minute and a half. It’ll have people singing along to the chorus, “over you, I’ll never be over you.” There’s a sort of somberness about it, which changes quickly with the song that follows it, “How Do I Know.” The song plays out through the question, “how do I know how to feel?” The acoustic guitar is more upbeat on this track, keeping that lighter sound into some of the other songs following it, like “Cold One” and “Thirsty.”
“Paws” appears towards the end of the album, and it pulls people in with its introductory lyrics: “I like you because you give me paws.” This track features the light shake of a maraca, along with a minimalistic acoustic sound. The lo-fi part of Lou Barlow’s career shines through in this song, as the reverb and light, solemn synth use at the end show. Things begin to slow down with the track “Tempted,” which features a wonderful scratchy guitar sound and echoey vocals. The lyrics “be honest with yourself” float throughout the song before leading up to a reveal at the end that punches the listener in the gut, “be honest with yourself, you’re a drunk.” The bluntness of the ending continues throughout the end, especially with the song that follows titled “All You People Suck.” The backing track certainly doesn’t sound angry, as it’s the same soft guitar listeners have heard throughout, but the vocals during the chorus are strong and loud, juxtaposing the soft acoustic mix.
There’s a sense of humility in Reason To Live that yearns one to go back to their roots, to the place that they call home. The tracks are opposite of the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles life, especially if one can’t possibly fathom calling LA home. It sounds as if he’s found a way to connect two parts of his life: a nostalgic taste of the humid New England air that brings Barlow home and the skills of a mature, masterful musician.