People who are goners could refer to those who lose themselves in the ones they love or those whose deaths are imminent. Laura Gibson addresses both on her beautifully haunted fifth album.
Gibson lost her father to cancer when she was 14 and this personal tragedy has had a strong influence on her life and art. She explains: “I’d known for a long time that I wanted to make a record about grief. In some ways, every song I’ve ever written has something to do with grief. This time around, I felt compelled to stare into the abyss".
The ten tracks carry a spooked ambience driven by a voice that sounds resigned to fate yet firmly resolved to documenting a tortured emotional state. “I wanted the songs to feel like fables, to unfold with dream logic”, she says.
This ambition is realized thrillingly on Domestication the parable of a wolf that tries to live as a woman. On other tracks, small details, innocuous in themselves, are imbued with ghostly subtexts.
On Slow Joke Ginshe sings "I can hear the neighbors' babies through the walls" while in the title track she gives a clue as to why her days should be so full of dread: "I fear small children, I fear curious elders".
Experimentation is integral yet never feels tagged on for effect. Gibson plays piano and Wurlitzer, rather than guitar, for half of the songs. The album was co-produced with engineer and friend John Askew in his studio in Portland, Oregon. Collaborators include Dave Depper on guitar and synth; drummer and found-sound percussionist Dan Hunt and stand-up bassist Nate Query. Elegant horn and woodwind arrangements were conceived with Kelly Pratt and the string parts with Kyleen King.
Feelings of trauma and grief are never easy to articulate so any attempt to render such experiences in vivid or rational terms is doomed to fail. On the closing track (I Don't Want Your Voice To Move Me) Gibson likens the fruitless endeavor to that of throwing stones into the void and says “I wanted to aim for wildness in my lyrics, not perfection".
Furthermore, when the end comes, be it of hope or life itself, it is neither romantic nor dramatic but simply a banal inevitability ("no white ship, no sunset").
'Goners' is a quietly cathartic, gently rebellious record which is committed to truth telling. Darkness may have few virtues but, when it inspires records as magical and honest as this, you can at least enjoy the luminosity of its silver linings.