Laura Gibson has been singing folk songs since 2010. Her 4th album “Empire Builder” shows how much experience and talent she has accumulated since her start. Songs like Damn Sure feature the high quality of her writing and melodies.

Gibson has a strong yet fragile voice. A unique voice that makes her way through the music, that sounds vulnerable but yet shows a lot of self-confidence. She makes me think of Suzanne Vega for that aspect. The way she arranged her songs (with the help of co-producer John Askew (The Dodos, Neko Case)) on “Empire Builder” displays lots of great music taste: Not Harmless has cool electric guitar licks, while The Cause uses raw noises to make that beat very original, as the album opener.


Like Feist often does, the Portland singer-songwriter can also sing over four simple piano chords and create genuine beauty (Five and Thirty). Her singing of intimate moments is delicate but never weak. Magnificient moments like that show up here and there on this record.

All 10 songs on “Empire Builder” are carefully crafted, taking the time they need to express a mood, tell a story.

Laura Gibson’s art can be compared with Aimee Mann, on the songwriting front, Sam Philips, for the music’s originality in a folk format and maybe Katie Moore for the storytelling talent (on the title song, Empire Builder). Great names to be associated with, needless to say.

“Empire Builder” is named for the Amtrak route Laura took while moving from Portland, Oregon to New York City in the summer of 2014.


On March 26th, 2015, her East Village building burned to the ground in a horrific gas explosion which killed two people and left many homeless. Gibson escaped from her apartment unharmed, but lost everything: all identification, eyeglasses, musical instruments, years of notebooks…

The bio of the multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter states that she grew up in a small isolated logging town called Coquille, in the South Coast region of Oregon. Gibson has seen her career swell to include everything from modeling in a Japanese fashion magazine, to receiving a standing ovation from an auditorium full of prison inmates, to a 3 1/2 hour improvised performance art piece with sound artist Ethan Rose and filmmaker Ryan Jeffery.


Her Wikipedia page states that her 2008 SXSW performance was the inspiration for NPR music’s very popular Tiny Desk Concert series. Laura Gibson performed the first and 200th Tiny Desk Concert.

Empire Builder
(Barsuk / City Slang, 2016)

-Genre: elaborated folk pop
-In the same style as Aimee Mann, Sam Phillips, Feist, Moriarty

Buy the album on the artist’s Barsuk page
Follow the artist via her Facebook page
Listen to videos on the artist’s YouTube channel

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About The Author

Mélomane invétéré plongeant dans tous les genres et époques, Nicolas Pelletier a publié 6 000 critiques de disques et concerts depuis 1991, dont 1100 chez emoragei magazine et 600 sur, dont il a également été le rédacteur en chef de 2009 à 2014. Il publie "Les perles rares et grands crus de la musique" en 2013, lance le site RREVERB en 2014, et devient stratège numérique des radios de Bell Média en 2015, participant au lancement de la marque iHeartRadio au Canada en 2016. Il dirige maintenant la stratégie numérique d'ICI Musique, la radio musicale de Radio-Canada.