Laura Gibson's new album, Beasts of Seasons, is nothing short of a masterpiece, both for its flawless and often haunting execution and for its inspired statements on the human experience. Broken into two parts, "Communion Songs" and "Funeral Songs," the album opens with a foreboding burst of feedback and static. If it's the sonic equivalent of darkness and what may be lurking there, then Gibson's fragile voice and plaintively strummed guitar soon emerge as a flicker of light. It's a mesmerizing contrast, as the curtain rises for Gibson's beautifully gloomy and arresting meditations on life and death.
Hear a full-album preview of Beasts of Seasons on NPR Music, as an exclusive first listen.
A shy and soft-spoken singer who writes and records around Portland, Ore., Gibson writes songs that reflect a childlike curiosity about the mysterious world around her. Her fingerpicked guitar lines and delicate melodies have roots in traditional folk, but given a choice, her songs always choose the overgrown, lesser-worn paths that lead in unexpected directions. It's territory she finds by feeling her way.
"I like to feel the rumble in my sternum and the vibrations in the back of my throat when I sing," she says. "I tend to gravitate toward simplicity and minimalism, but I am very conscious of the particular notes I play."
Gibson wrote Beasts of Seasons while staying in a house that overlooks one of Portland's oldest cemeteries. She completed the last song shortly before moving out.
"When I was finished," she says, "I felt a great relief. As a writer, all I could hope to be, if nothing else, is honest and generous in spirit. I have been alive for exactly 29 years — perhaps not as old as the trees, but certainly older than the birds. There are days I feel like an old woman, and I find that death is a calm and familiar presence. There are days I feel like a young child, where death seems so foreign and shocking."