Laura Gibson has made her name somewhere between the quiet and the disquieting: in spare, hushed moments that seem engineered to soundtrack late nights of solitude and introspection. (It’s hardly a secret that straining to hear a Laura Gibson show is what inspired the creation of Tiny Desk concerts 10 years ago.)
But on her last few records, Gibson has grown louder, bolder and occasionally weirder in songs that can thunder ominously. Goners, which comes out later this month, is her most adventurous yet: a collection of songs about grief and introspection that don’t just turn inward for examination. “Domestication,” the album’s new single, is an instantly gratifying gem: a warm, searching beauty that swoops dramatically through a treatise on wolves, womanhood and the pressure she feels to “make me into somebody easy.”
“The song ‘Domestication’ took form as a fable, the story of wolf trying and failing to live as a woman,” Gibson writes via email. “I was thinking a lot about shape-shifting. Wolves and dogs seemed to haunt my lyrics on Goners. I spent some time alone in the mountains of Oregon, while working on these songs. Wolves lived in the state until the late 1940s, when they were hunted and trapped into extinction. They were reintroduced in Idaho in the 1990s and have been slowly moving west. I’ve been obsessed with tracing their progress. The summer of 2017, as I was working on these lyrics, the first mating pair of wolves in half a century was spotted on Mount Hood. What, within my lifetime, has only ever seemed a distant, mythical, fairy-tale creature, is now is an actual animal living life near me.
“The fable form gave me the language and the bravery to explore more personal things,” she continues. “In short: Still, at times, though I know better, I’ll catch myself thinking in terms of what I should desire of womanhood instead of what I actually desire. I catch myself feeling I am failing at something, at some ideal I was never actually aiming for.
“I finished these lyrics a year ago. It’s strange to release the song now, when it feels so much is coming to a head. So much has cracked open for women, in the year since writing ‘Domestication.’ So much remains the same.
“Though I’d meant ‘domestication’ in the animal sense, when it came time to make the video, I liked the idea of using the term in the homemaking sense. I’d been obsessed with this photo I’d found of the pastel women of the FLDS cult, and wanted to build a world and a story around the aesthetic — something like the speculative societies of Margaret Atwood or Ursula Le Guin. At the end of the story, I wanted the women to act like wolves.
“It was a huge amount of work to pull off and I was so thankful to collaborate with director Alicia Rose, an incredible force of knowledge and skill. I’ve learned so much from her. My mom sewed all those dresses. My friend Eden and I dyed them pastel colors in my backyard. So many friends helped.”
Goners comes out Oct. 26 via Barsuk.