In 1989, 23-year-old Lou Barlow was making homemade recordings in his living room during his downtime from playing bass in Dinosaur Jr. 26 years later, it's remarkable how little has changed -- Barlow is once again playing bass in the reunited Dinosaur Jr., and in his spare time, he's pursuing his solo career. 2015's Brace the Wave finds Barlow recording a new set of songs primarily in a makeshift studio located in someone's living room, with Barlow handling his various instruments all by himself (on "C + E," you even get to hear him clicking the recorder on and off). Barlow's melodic sense hasn't changed all that much in a quarter-century, and he's still obsessed with the ups and downs of romantic relationships, but maturity has done him a lot of good, and Brace the Wave finds him sounding stronger and more confident as a solo artist than he has in the past. If Barlow is still clearly a lo-fi man, he's not making crummy-sounding recordings for their own sake anymore; many of the tracks on Brace the Wave document the natural sound of Barlow playing alone in a room, and the homey ambience brings a lot to numbers like "Pulse" and "Lazy." And while Barlow aims for a more expansive and ambitious sound on "Nerve" and "Boundaries," these cuts still sound homemade in a way that allows the songwriter to let his guard down and open his heart to the listener (not that he's ever been known to hold back, but the process seems simpler and less forced than on his earlier work), while the audio is clear and crisp if unfussy. And Barlow is singing as well as he ever has, maybe even better, filling his tunes with subtle passion and a genuine warmth that wasn't always a part of Sebadoh's music. So Brace the Wave reveals that Lou Barlow hasn't changed all that much in the past quarter-century -- he's just better at this stuff, and has finally grown more comfortable with it.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming