12 Plays of Christmas – Laura Gibson

 

A friend of mine described Empire Builder, Gibson’s 4th record as having restored her faith in albums. Unlike me, she is not given to hyperbole.

Trying to do this record justice seems like a fools errand. It’s rare,even with my listening schedule, to come across an album of such enchanting. immediate poise. One which even in it’s musical variation retains a sense of continuity and completeness. Pace is one of the hardest things to measure across a set of songs yet this is a record that never seems rushed or overbearing. Every moment follows naturally from the next. Credit is due here to producer John Askew and it came as little surprise to discover that he’d done excellent work with Neko Case, Richmond Fontaine and The Dodos previously.

Damn Sure is a beautifully folksy ballad with a sting in the tail that’s carried by the quiet intensity of Gibson’s voice. It’s an almost impossibly hard thing to talk about love without sounding trite yet just as you’re convinced by her sincerity you find she’s lost it:

The title track of this album is its ceaseless beating heart, faint and almost forgettable yet necessary and vital. It is a song about leaving, but not about running away . It is dark but never loses hope:

This is not an escape
But I don’t know how to hold somebody without losing my grip
You’ll say I was bound to leave
Since I first stepped across your borders
Since I crawled into your skin

Thought I heard you whisper in the dark
That you knew where the light would be
Thought I saw your shape against the black
Thought I felt you moving beside me

We are not alone and we are more alone than we’ve ever been
So hurry up and lose me
Hurry up and find me, again

Then, out of the darkness, wanders a woozy string quartet flickering in and out of vision, swirling overhead befuddling and beguiling us. We are happily lost:

Two Kids is a song that lives for the moment, both musically and lyrically.  It is light, whimsical almost, in comparison to the tracks that surround it. It doesn’t think of the future, it is restless but happy. It says love may not last so take what you have:

The Last One is a song about the end of relationship (I seem to fall for a fair few of those) but it may be the best one I’ve ever heard. Listen to this at full volume and drown in its wonder:

This is one of the truly great forgotten albums of 2016, a bonafide classic that will no doubt be discovered with time. For now, though, don’t let it pass you by.

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