Album Review: Laura Gibson – Empire Builder

According to Laura Gibson, her fourth album is about “wanting to be a badass strong woman, but also wanting to rip myself open in order to nurture and care for people.” From the immediate start, Empire Builder feels incredibly personal, full of clear-eyed honesty, urgency and warmth.

The title is taken from the Amtrak train route that the artist took while moving from Portland, Oregon to New York City in the summer of 2014, leaving her close-knit family and long-time boyfriend behind to study fiction studies at grad school. Using her storytelling skills, Gibson has created heartbreakingly beautiful songs that hit hard, separate from their autobiographical backstory.

The artist’s soothing voice complements really well with the many instrumental sounds on opening track ‘The Cause,’ weaving together in a similar way as all the songs on the album do. The absolutely wonderful lyric video of the title song, showing majestic American landscapes, bring to mind the time between loss and rediscovery. Sometimes the music is fleeting and Gibson’s voice paper-thin, other times the vocal harmonies are strong and dramatic, creating a cinematic quality. Empire Building is a dreamlike album about independence, womanhood, solitude, connection and aloneness.

[Aike Jansen]


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