by Sarah Knoll
The ever name-changing project lead by singer-songwriter and artist, Gabrielle Smith has put out their latest release under the name Gabby’s World. Beast on Beast is the third LP of this project but the first under the new name. Previously releasing two LP’s under the name Ó and Eskimeaux. Their debut LP in 2015 titled O.K. struck many chords, literally and figuratively with the indie genre and culture. Gabby’s soft and angelic vocals swept through a vast arrangements of synth, guitar, bass and drums all played by Gabby’s close friends and partner Oliver Kalb. O.K opened itself up like pieces of Gabby’s journal. Her poetic lyrics with subtle hints of personal issues allow us access to hear the world through Gabby’s lens. On Beast on Beast Gabby continues to take us through her narrative shifting more towards a more refined and well-rounded album.
Opening track “Winter, Withdrawal” again centers on Gabby’s soft vocals that descend into the track nearly effortlessly. Building the melody first with guitar and then bringing forward the synth, bass, and drums seems like Gabby’s signature throughout her discography. It works very well as a starting track to set the tone for the rest of the album, this one darker than the others that have come before. Opening the track with the lyric “At the black center of my thoughts I plead” acknowledges that this track and album although seemingly light and airy will have undertones of what goes through Gabby’s mind. That in itself is one of the great things that Gabby’s World does. The songs open themselves up to escape into this world built through sound and poetry.
Gabby’s songwriting style seems akin to the likes of Laura Marling and Sufjan Stevens. Careful and meticulous to how each lyric, each instrument, ties in with another to create a simplistic song that reaches its own unique aesthetic. Tracks such as “Eyes for You” and “Ode” do this very well on Beast on Beast. “Eyes for You” opening with a twangy riff that evokes some aspects of punk but are cut with Gabby’s vocals and lyrics about loving her partner. Lyrics that depict this like “You look up and all I see: trees, a sea of green/You look up and in a burst my whole body is covered in the densest forest” is another prime example of Gabby’s poetic mind.
The album has a very bedroom-pop quality but with the production and recordings of a studio album. The track “Ode” keeps the bedroom-type vibe but allows each sound to speak on its own without being drowned by one another. “Ode” feels like the song that plays at a school dance and certainly brings forth that sense of angst you’d get at a school dance through the lyrics. Towards the end of the track lyrics starting with “I’m losing myself” feel like small confessions in Gabby’s journal that are being strung through these mystical instrumentals and vocal delivery. It’s an interesting contrast that gives play to the meaning and message behind the lyrics.
Beast on Beast is an emotionally dense album that hides under playful songwriting and Gabby’s airy and effortless vocals that drive home the accessibility to Gabby’s inner world and life. It brings forth a discussion and openness that’s refreshing as the risk of being vulnerable is a risk that Gabby takes and sees through. It’s a risk that provides an interesting and relatable album that gives comfort to those who need it.