Pure country music has never really had an indie scene. However, as soon as it becomes grafted onto other genres then it has become very successful, as countless alt-country, folk and rockabilly bands have proven. Daughn Gibson has chosen the road less travelled. By manipulating voices and adding drumbeats and loops, he has tried to weld a supremely organic type of music with the cold tread of our electronic-21st century world.
Gibson’s motif derives from the country tunes one hears while driving down the road well past midnight. Imagine a route-66 version of Sinatra’s Sings Only For the Lonely. So the themes are certainly gloomy. Gibson narrates doomed scenarios of broken men, for instance he growls, “there’s nothing like a grown man crying” in “A Young Girl’s World”. His baritone echoed voice, reminiscent of Johnny Cash and Scott Walker, applies the depth to the lyrics, as in the depth of his characters’ existential abyss. And indeed because their situations seem so doomed, a perverse sense of enjoyment is incorporated. For one thing, many of the riffs are very catchy such as “Lookin’ Back on ‘99” with its menacing jangles, and the cathartic female chorus of “In the Beginning”. “Tiffany Lou” is perhaps the album’s best song. It’s chorus best exemplifies the tension between sadness and hubristic ecstasy. For it has the cold far-away moans of Gibson’s vocals, yet suddenly a flat note is struck on the guitar, followed by a few comfortable piano and you wonder if the chorus is some kind of redemption, until the song ends entropically with only the moans.
What is also invigorating is how Gibson manages to vary his songs within the album, while still maintaining a core concept. Throughout, you suddenly hear a seconds worth, of totally unexpected influence such as Paul Simon in the pre-chorus to “In the Beginning” or Kraftwerk in the feedback interlude to “Dandelions”. But perhaps Gibson’s greatest and most immediate debt is to James Blake, who through his debut album last year, has paved the way for a more quieter, patient sound where depth is more important than volume. Yet despite their similarities, Gibson’s debut is refreshingly idiosyncratic, and has a few single-worthy songs to create an impact for the less patient listeners.