Remember the last time a Lou Barlow-blessed project received barrels of slobbering kudos for its lo-fi perfection? Yeah, me neither. Particularly after the dreadful, sludgy dirges populating the most recent New Folk Explosion album. In fact, if the high-quality tunes crafted for Alaska (the side project of Barlow’s NFI henchmen Russell Pollard and Imaad Wasif) are any indication, Pollard and Wasif are indie rock’s new folk superstuds. Formed in 2000 in San Francisco as an acoustic outfit, the duo eventually added Lesley Ishino (ex-Red Aunts) on drums and produced 2003’s Emotions. A criminally overlooked debut merging the roaring riffs of Red House Painters, the Americana vibe of Grant Lee Buffalo and fragile harmonies and unplugged beauty of Elliott Smith, the disc is gentle enough to experience before the first cup of java in the morning but meaty enough for the coffeehouse’s open-mike night.

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