Album Review: Beth Gibbons – Lives Outgrown

Posted on: May 19, 2024
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By Ryan Nims

Portishead singer Beth Gibbons just dropped her first solo album Lives Outgrown on Domino Records. After many years of making music on her own schedule (three Portishead albums from 1994 to 2008 and a handful of other appearances, most recently on “Mother I Sober” from Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers).

Longtime fans will know she released a collaborative album, Out of Season in 2003 with Talk Talk bassist Paul Webb as Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man, and in some ways, this new album picks up where that one left off. The album is mostly acoustic, with some haunting instrumentation that is reminiscent of Portishead, but without the electronic flair. Musically sparse, the album was produced by James Ford and former Talk Talk drummer Lee Harris. Lyrically, Lives Outgrown sees Gibbons pondering growing older; the album is very personal for someone who has been as intensely private as Gibbons has.

Album opener “Tell Me Who You Are Today” begins with a hammered acoustic guitar part reminiscent of Nick Drake. The song is slow and brooding, the percussion is soft, and the strings grow to an epic swell.

The first single “Floating On A Moment” is no less melancholic, but more open, with a choir backing up Gibbons’s longing vocals.

Rewind” marks the midpoint of the album, and features Middle Eastern instrumentation and frenetic percussion. In my numerous listens to the album so far, this is my favorite track.

Oceans,” “For Sale,” and “Beyond the Sun” continue the worldly sounds on the album, somewhat reminiscent of Dead Can Dance.

The album culminates with “Whispering Love,” a reedy, acoustic folk song.

Overall, Lives Outgrown is a fantastic album, and is one that I have been anticipating since it was announced back in February. Despite its more stripped-down instrumentation, fans of Portishead will definitely connect with the haunting vocals. Musically, it’s similar to Out Of Season, or the latter Talk Talk albums.