Its called listening to Laura Gibsons new album, because this eerie, simple singer from Portland is everything the plastic-lipped Hollywood pop/sadcore (note: these are tags that have been following Ms. Del Ray around every corner, but what the heck do they mean?) isnt, and then some.
For one thing, Gibson knows how to gently arrange the individual syllables in a lyric, unlike LDR, who pummels them into place with a yelp thats too annoying for pop and too soft for punk. Milk-Heavy, Pollen-Eyed is probably the most singularly poetic song on La Grande, Gibsons third record (first on indie institution Barsuk), and she beautifully stretches and squashes the words into the songs measure. Sample lyric: For love has got you hanging on my hips / Like a worn-out dress with my skin showing through.
The whole thing hinges on way she utters worn, and she stretches the lyric ever so subtly, as to make her voice actually sound worn-out. Masterful.
With La Grande, we have another example of a talented songwriter with a distinct voice employing a mini-orchestra (see: Other Lives, Sufjan Stevens, Lost in the Trees) to record beautifully lyrical songs that mostly skew pastoral. Very nice, rumbling timpani follow along for most the record, anchoring some pretty, flighty melodies on Lion/Lamb.
The Fire stands out as the albums single, introduced by shaky tambourine and capped with the discs most explosive use of organ. While Gibsons voice isnt really suited to get the listener excited, its still the centerpiece, which limits the musics potential for being really catchy and outstandingly memorable.
The fourth track, Skin, Warming Skin, picks up the pace a little bit, with an arrangement that groans and grows larger, eventually climaxing at the end. Its a moment of excitement on a fairly short album (36 minutes just about perfect for a folk/trad-type recording, I think) that doesnt boast many. Not that La Grande really needs to; its simple aural beauty makes its case.
The Rushing Dark feels kinda like an old spiritual, and not just because it sounds like its coming through a phonograph. Those swaying background vocals make for something youd have expected Destinys Child to be raised on, not some white girl from the northwest.
Carefully and lovingly arranged around Gibsons petite, pretty voice, this albums a folk winner that doesnt quite reach to the upper-echelon of recently recorded female folk LPs, but its certainly quite near.