The folk soundings of Laura Gibson are marked by a variety of sounds. While the words simple yet elegant seem fitting to describe such an artist, I think intricate and raw also have their place in the description of La Grande. However, through all of this soft and roughness, Gibson’s sugary vocals remain constant, serving as the syrup to run between the sounds. In its folk genre, this album seems to go a lot of places and somehow stay in one place.
Strewn through La Grande are various instances of gentle serenity, which seems to be the bigger of the two paths that this album takes. You have moments of subtle beauty apart from the obvious pretty voice of Gibson of herself and the accompanying, soft acoustic guitar. On the second song, “Milk-Heavy, Pollen-Eyed,” these subtleties culminate to produce a solid, slow moving gem; the quiet xylophone, Gibson’s meek voice meandering through the song, the bare minimum percussive elements make the track feel a little sleepy, and yet ever enjoyable. Another instance of this chill folksy combination is on the later track, “Crow/Swallow” in which Gibson croons simply over some guitar plucking, which makes for a calming listen.
On the rowdier side of things are songs like opener and title track “La Grande,” on which the emphasized percussion reminds me a bit of The Dodos; the very base of the song is the constant, stomper of a beat. Of course, Gibson’s vocals prove a start contrast to the deep drums that resound deeply towards the end of the song, giving it that edge to avoid the song turning into a mess of beats and dulcet tones. Another song that rides the rowdier waves in a stronger percussive sense is my personal favorite, “Skin, Warming Skin.” On this track, you’ll find the build to a climax that is lacking in places elsewhere on the album. Gibson’s voice contrasts with the likes of drawn out guitar sound and eerie backing “oohs.” It’s easily the most interesting song on here.
Overall, this album isn’t entirely overwhelming, but it will present you with moments that can overwhelm you. Sure, you will have some instances in which you are even underwhelmed a tad, but the music is presented in many forms and Gibson leaves it up to you to discern your favorite—the simple combination of honeyed vocals and guitar plucking explored in a slightly new light in some instances and shining in the same glow in others.