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Laura Gibson: Muted Beauty In The 'Shadows'

Every day this week, Song of the Day will showcase a track by an artist playing the South by Southwest music festival. For NPR Music's full coverage of SXSW — complete with full-length concerts, studio sessions, blogs, Twitter feeds, video and more --click here. And don't miss our continuous six-hour playlist, The Austin 100, which features much more of the best music the festival has to offer.

Laura Gibson is as far from flashy as singer-songwriters get: Where most project their voices to grab an audience's attention, Gibson seems to sing inward, directing her words into her own lungs for safe keeping. Given the singer's unassuming persona, Gibson's new Beasts of Seasons is a revelation, as sonically rich as it is characteristically quiet.

Split into "Funeral Songs" and "Communion Songs," the album blends darkness and light, maintaining an emphasis on the former. Beasts of Seasons opens, funereally enough, with the seven-and-a-half minute epic "Shadows on Parade," but this is no mere dirge. Opening amid feedback squalls, the song quickly offsets the dissonance with harp-like strums on an acoustic guitar, setting the tone for a somber, dreamlike journey that drifts along gently while retaining its muted beauty.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)