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CD Review: Laura Gibson's La Grande 

With members of the Decemberists and M. Ward's band helping her out, we could begin by declaring that Portland's Laura Gibson was Portlandia long before Portlandia. But Gibson was raised in a Northwest coastal lumber town and recorded her third full-length in the middle-of-nowhere-Oregon title burg La Grande, not Rose City.

Far more germane, Gibson's music transcends geographical push-pins, embracing disparate styles and eras — including beard-and-beanie-ville's fecund scene — in service only of the song. Nylon-string trellises tilt Appalachia, but they're vined with misty Northwest guitar effects, Brit folk woodwinds and horns, and judicious-but-defining tape-noise and loops for those oh-so-current accents. You can hear echoes of, say, Juana Molina in the Tropicalia pulse, looped percussion and whimsical woodwinds of "Lion/Lamb;" Edith Frost's Chicago winter-melancholy in the shadowy horns, contrabass and stark plucking of "Crow/Swallow;" and Billy Holliday-by-way-of-New Orleans in the time capsule-gospel static of "The Rushing Dark."

Sensibly employed distortion is a Gibson strong suit (see also her 2010 Bridge Carols ambient collab with Ethan Rose), and she delivers on that almost too well with a pair of tracks here that recall Ward's subtly fucked-with folk-blues. Distorted vocals blend seamlessly with treated slide guitars and tape noise on "Red Moon," which could be a hidden track on Ward's End of Amnesia; the tub-thumping blues "The Fire" could be the female counter to her fellow Portlander's rollicking "Big Boat" from Transistor Radio.

But whatever her influences, they all cohere in an LP whose theme — moving forward fearlessly — is captured here in the timeless voice of a unique young songwriting talent.

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