Beth Gibbons - Lives Outgrown

Trip-hop fans, prepare for a surprise; “Lives Outgrown” showcases a Beth Gibbons we've never heard before. In the 90s, the British singer-songwriter was a pioneer in the trip-hop genre as the frontwoman of Portishead, melding her ethereal lounge-singer voice with retro-futuristic production. This sound helped define the 90s, but those days are long gone, and Gibbons is well aware. On her latest solo release, Beth Gibbons takes a bold detour; rather than rehashing old styles, Lives Outgrown ventures into acoustic territory that may disorient many die-hard Portishead fans. This album is devoid of breakbeats and vintage samples, it is a folky release to sip wine without bopping one’s head to a rhythm. In place of those elements, we find string sections, timpani, and wailing saxophones that don't exactly evoke the chilled, mellow vibes of Portishead’s iconic debut “Dummy.”

The tracks on Lives Outgrown are weary and restless. Throughout these ten brooding songs, there's a sense of looming storm clouds, creating a perfect soundscape for Gibbons' foreboding lyrics and trembling vocals. It sounds less like a Portishead album and more akin to the works of modern singer-songwriters.

Gibbons skillfully balances her grandiose arrangements with an appreciation for intimate, chamber-like sounds. While these chamber-folk soundscapes of Lives Outgrown might surprise some, it seems to be a natural progression for Gibbons, who has always had a penchant for the cinematic. The expansive arrangements come effortlessly to Gibbons, whose voice sounds more anguished than ever. Despite thirty years of stardom, Gibbons has not lost any of her vocal abilities. Lives Outgrown makes this clear from the opening track "Tell Me Who You Are Today," featuring Gibbons’ poetic lead vocals over intricate layers of her own voice. It is an intriguing start to an album that explores themes of mortality, loss, and aging, a call to understand one's current self when Gibbons seems burdened by a long past and an uncertain future. It’s evident from the lyrics that Gibbons has endured much loss, but one thing she hasn’t lost is her acute ear for production. Co-producing with James Ford, the producer behind recent revitalizations for Arctic Monkeys and Blur, Gibbons masterfully balances her elaborate arrangements with an appreciation for the finer, more intimate sounds of her chamber. Samples of children playing and birds chirping, the delicate rattles of tambourines and mandolins, the accidental sounds of fretboard slides, and Gibbons’ own breathing: all these elements contribute to what is undeniably Gibbons’ most sensory driven project to date.

Released May 17, 2024

 

 Format Info

CD, Vinyl, and Digital Download, Also available on Streamings Services.

 

 

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