Laura Gibson - La Grande
This is just what we needed to kickstart our 2012. Laura Gibson's third solo effort - first on City Slang records - is a challenging and highly enjoyable listen that while it might take a couple of goes to properly appreciate its sometimes wistful mindset, rewards the listener with a delectable ten songs of soft, low-key folk.
La Grande's title track opens proceedings in strong fashion, upbeat with tribal drums but the key is that it has enough hints of weirdness - whispered backing vocals, unsettling percussion - to set you up for what follows. At the centre of it all is Gibson's distinctive vocals that carry more than a touch of the other Laura, but the output couldn't be farther removed. 'Skin, Warming Skin' starts with jaunty guitars before introducing a choral backing that quickly becomes hypnotically beautiful, while 'The Fire' is a joyful carnival in comparison, its delightful dynamic structure with piano and organs giving way to delicate guitar plucking and vice versa. Sometimes things do get odd, perhaps overly so for some people, such as on 'The Rushing Dark' with its crackly instrumental as though played through a gramophone, but if you've submitted to Gibson's unique vision by then, it'll just be an added part of the charm. As opening salvos to a year go, Laura Gibson's La Grande really is quite special.