Act Surprised

Act Surprised

In 2013, Sebadoh frontman Lou Barlow reunited with longtime bandmate Jason Loewenstein to release Defend Yourself, their first new album after a 14-year recording break. But there were other changes in store for Barlow—shortly after, he relocated from Los Angeles to Western Massachusetts to be closer to his family and bandmates. Since then, the trio has finally settled into a good rhythm after an unpredictable 30-year run. And though the trebly, lo-fi recording style they helped normalize is far gone, their ramshackle spirit remains. Act Surprised is the band at their most potent, underpinning their honest, highly charged songs with careening hooks and vigorous beats. On “medicate” and “celebrate the void,” Barlow tries not to get caught up in life’s inevitable pitfalls, changing his attitude for the better. Loewenstein—who wrote half of the tracks—lends his gruff vocals to “phantom” and “stunned,” possessing an urgency that contrasts with Barlow's softer, quavering voice. Ever the sensitive romantic, Barlow yearns on “sunshine,” giving some breathing room to the album’s blistering scuzz-rock.

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