I had never heard of Laura Gibson before this year. The cover of her album caught my eye. Featuring just Gibson’s face in a yellow top in front of a yellow wall it has the captured in a moment feel, like when the bright lights of a camera catch you standing in front of the wall in a dark club and you quickly look away.
Having moved away from Oregon to New York in order to study creative writing, the building Gibson was living in caught fire and she lost all her belongings including all of her writing. Tragically two people were killed though Gibson was not hurt. Working on the new album, this spirit gets captured in the lyric “Two hearts, new start, every card is wild” from “Two Kids”
Gibson’s fourth, Empire Builder, starts off with the mid temp strut of “The Cause” and is followed up with the sparse “Damn Sure” whose lyrics look back on past plans that didn’t work out. The decisions that you hang your entire life on at the time but then start to fall apart. “Well, I changed my name the day I left, I cut my hair, I hemmed my dress, I was damn sure about it”.
Halfway through the album there is a bit of a lull right after the poetically heartbreaking title track. The aforementioned “Two Kids” picks up the pace while the “The Last One” proves to be one of the better songs on the album. “And maybe I’ll stay, or maybe I’ll hear The tiniest voice whispering to me ‘Go Go Go Go Go Go Go Go Go Go Go Go Go’” .
After reading a bit about her life, Laura Gibson seems to be a wanderer and discoverer which comes through in her art. Empire Builder is a minimal batch of songs that are confident and excellently played by Dave Depper of Death Cab for Cutie, Dan Hunt (Neko Case’s percussionist), and composer/violinist Peter Broderick. Throughout the album, Gibson captures quite well what its like to be an adult and still trying to figure life out.