Review: Laura Gibson – La Grande

Is it just me, or does the month of January seem to bring a degree of slight despondency? Your clothes are that little bit too tight from too much Christmas eating, your complexion is that off white colour from a lack of sunlight and the summer holidays seem a million miles away. Laura Gibson’s new album La Grande seems to pick up on this melancholy which seems to infect us all, however there is an underlying spring in her step, a degree of hope and liveliness to her songs which threaten to pull us out of this lethargic groove.

There is a distinct vintage and timeless sound to the album and to Gibson’s voice; songs such as The Rushing Dark and Red Moon in particular demonstrate this.  You can imagine the sound perhaps coming from an old record player or radio at a 1920’s Charleston party, the atmosphere thick with cigarette smoke and glamorous women covered in sequins sashaying across the room.  As a body of work it is hard to decipher a common theme and it is easy to lose your way whilst listening.  However this does prove the album has variety and individuality, with each song offering something different for the listener. An element of this album which really stands out is the captivating instrumentals, with each song boasting a new and intriguing backing track. Gibson’s talent is truly impressive, with instruments such as the pump organ, percussion, vibraphone and marimba all coupled with her beguiling voice, each a masterpiece in their own right.

The album kicks off with title track La Grande, which has a bouncy, marching rhythm and a catchy drumming beat.  There are eerie vocals and drum clashes which excite and intrigue you as to what is to come.  Milk-Heavy, Pollen Eyed follows and is a personal favourite on the album.  It’s mellow and undulating tones go well with the simple, enchanting instrumentals. Skin Warming Skin is another track with a contagious and marching chorus, made possible through the affecting instruments and distant, almost ghostly vocals. And The Fire has a distinct folky feel with that toe tapping element to it, and a jolly upbeat vibe and a vibrancy and energy which enthuses you.

It is not a demanding album, and I do not mean that in a critical way.  Rather, it is an album of composure and tenderness. It does not command attention or opinion, but nor does it raise questions or start arguments. And it is always refreshing at times to just relax and enjoy music, without delving too far into emotions and meaning. A defiant yet unforced statement, with growth and deviance from her somewhat timid and cautious previous album Beasts Of Season, Gibson’s La Grande is a promising start to 2012.

Ellie Witt