Expect haunting vocals and atmospheric echoes, layered over instrumentals of typically American clarity. Gibson's Oregon origins provide the inspiration for this work, including its title - La Grande, pronounced 'luh grand' in the local dialect, is described by Gibson as a place "people usually pass through on their way to somewhere else", but its own unique energy sparked the writing process for this album, which pays homage to the town, found east of Wallowa Valley.
This is another of those albums with lots of good points, but personal high points for me include track 7 - Crow/Swallow. Gibson's vocals take unapologetic centre stage on this one, with the gentlest of backing tracks to support her (not that she needs it). Crow/Swallow could easily appear on a TV commercial, for fabric softener or health insurance or John Lewis, and would no doubt storm the download charts if it did. Yeah, it's one of those. You can preview it below - track 7, remember.
Closing track Feather Lungs, the tenth composition on La Grande, is another delicate piece that wraps things up with what threatens to be a short, mainly vocal epilogue, but swells into a warm and moving piano piece over which Gibson sings lyrics strong enough to stand alone as poetry.
Strings fill in the gaps during Feather Lungs' instrumental section, lending poignancy and a touch of sadness to the track, and leaving the listener with that haunted feeling I mentioned in this review's opening paragraphs.
La Grande (which I, and other reviewers it seems, keep mistyping as 'La Grange' for some reason...) is a peaceful and relaxing work, filled with emotion - both uplifting and melancholy - and an excellent showcase of Laura Gibson's voice.
You could choose to argue that Gibson's style is becoming too familiar - that too many female soloists are now doing the echoey, sweeter-than-syrup delivery that's appearing on all the ads and making its presence known in the download charts. But that's no criticism - as I may have mentioned before, downloads mean the charts are much more fluid; people are no longer limited to buying whatever's out this week.
Laura Gibson, and La Grande, are ideal examples of this principle. With largely non-time-specific subject matter, this is an album that is likely to sound as good a few years down the line as it does on its day of release. Take a listen for yourself - and if you're a fan of this still-developing genre, add it to your iTunes library for future enjoyment.
Final Score: 84%