Music Review

Beth Gibbons – Lives Outgrown

todayMay 16, 2024 37

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By – Kristi Houk

Recommended if you like: Portishead, PJ Harvey, Lamb, Jessica Pratt

Beth Gibbons has always been here. Let me explain: she has one of those voices that once you hear it, you always recognize. A singular, yearning sometimes howl  – it can be both comforting and uncomfortable simultaneously. Think Billie Holiday and Nina Simone combined with British folk singers like Sandy Denny and early Marianne Faithful.

The former much lauded English trip hop band Portishead’s Chanteuse returns with her debut solo album, Lives Outgrown on Domino Records with additional production by Talk Talk’s Lee Harris which is no surprise given this album contains that same minimal, morose, loosely jazzy element of Talk Talk’s seminal recording Spirit of Eden.

Lives Outgrown took 10 years to make and is a reflection on loss, grief, identity, memory, connection in a post-Covid landscape, and reconciling (or not) with getting older. In an uncharacteristic move, Gibbons has spoken out about the themes on this album—“lots of goodbyes.”

Opening track, “Tell Me Who You Are Today” Gibbons beckons the listener inside her mind – a dour beginning with a lonely sounding acoustic guitar a la Nick Drake, backed by a quickly rising tension through ominous strings. It’s a stark start. “Free from all I hear inside. Hear my loneliness, falling out, falling in.” In other words, middle-age and what comes with it kinda sucks.

However, there are tools to keep in the tool chest in order keep hope and curiosity alive. On the dare I say, playful, even sweet, more melodic single, “Floating on a Moment” Gibbons warns- “Without control, I’m headed toward a boundary that divides us, reminds us…“All we have is here and now.” Good words to live by.

On the last track “Whispering Love” we feel the signs of life – warm, summer mornings with  birds and trees that always come through for us if we stop and take notice. Relish in what is front of us. There’s a rocking movement on this track as if being cradled in the arms of a mother on a rusty hinged front porch swing.

Stand Out Tracks: “Reaching Out,” “Floating on a Moment, “Whispering Love”

Written by: kristi houk

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