Music

Daughn Gibson: Carnation

Photo: Sarah Cass

Carnation finds Daughn Gibson taking scissors to his signature sound, recutting it to a new style all the while keeping his natural waywardness.


Daughn Gibson

Carnation

Label: Sub Pop
US Release Date: 2015-06-01
UK Release Date: 2015-06-01
Amazon
iTunes

Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find hinges on the actions of a man called the Misfit. He dresses in black, speaks eloquently, and is kind to strangers, but this being a Southern Gothic work, he’s hiding something beneath the slow drawl. He’s a serial killer, calmly murdering the story’s central family and, when he finally does break the façade of tranquility, he goes ballistic. The world that Daughn Gibson paints and inhabits so often mirrors those moments of sheer darkness from O’Connor, a mix of intoxicating and terrifying. Gibson is, after all, one of the few singers that makes the threat of “shatter[ing] you through” sound as seductive as it is dangerous. Three albums in, and Gibson’s found his smoothest mix yet, narrating stories of lust and crime with just enough polish to have them stick in your brain, but still holding their inherent darkness.

Gibson’s been myth-making from the start. He’s a Pennsylvania native, but he’s played each of his albums like he was born in a Texas border town. Of course, it’s not that hard to fool people when you’ve got the accent down, and Gibson’s seemingly bottomless baritone coupled with a deep drawl makes him a convincing southerner. His Lone Star State croon isn’t just meant to fool people; he’s clearly having fun with this character. Just look at “I Let Him Deal”, which starts as a murky rocker with clattering percussion and swooning guitar before the chorus bursts into flames, Gibson proclaiming “it cuts down to the face” with glee, taking pleasure in the destruction he causes.

Gibson’s rantings are colored by a fresh coat of paint on his music. He’s taking in more Joy Division-ish qualities, more '80s sounding synths pop up to make the darkness dancy. Lead single “Shatter You Through” is the best example. In the Smiths’ heyday, it could have been a top-40 hit; as it stands now, it’s one of Gibson’s finest songs, a sleek and coursing track built off a twinkling piano lead and Gibson’s musings on lust and death. Gibson has a penchant for the seductive, but he’s never been finer with his Casanova act than on “Shatter You Through”. The chorus goes “woken up by oceans”, or “motions”. Either way he portrays a sexual tension that’s as powerful as the ebb and flow of the sea. The song preceding “Shatter You Through” is “Heaven You Better Come In” another diva like turn for Gibson. He describes being trapped in a motel room, and the title seems to refer to Gibson battling a plethora of temptations; that, or he’s literally inviting a girl named “Heaven” into his suite.

In fact, the only time Gibson lets a bit of light shine down on his dirty kingdom is on the sleazy “Shine of the Night” where his husky voice becomes even more slurred over smartly sharp bass and a boozy chorus. It seems to come right out of a surprisingly excellent bar band’s repertoire, right down to the slinky sax solo about half way through, and that’s precisely the picture Gibson wants to paint. If you don’t instantly imagine undergarments strewn among beer cans and cigarette ash, you’re not listening close enough.

Gibson also makes sure there’s at least one track to smother out any comforting thoughts “Shine of the Night” might provide. “For Every Bite” is Gibson at his nastiest, both in production and vocal quality. He duets with himself, two creeping baritones slithering over each other, delivering a spine-chilling performance. The drums drag enough just to make the whole thing ragged, along with the dusty bass interjections. The pre-chorus chugs along under Gibson’s come-ons, but it’s the punch-drunk chorus that imbues the song with hellish darkness. As Gibson’s last syllables fade (“and dance toooooo”) a piano crawls up the walls, with particular potency on the final chorus.

If there’s any minor quibble, it’s that Carnation stacks its front half with the hits, leaving the second bit a bit anemic. When the four best songs on the album all appear in a quick succession (“Heaven You Better Come In” through “Daddy I Cut My Hair”) it leaves the following tracks a bit underwhelming. If there’s anything to really get worried about, it’s the possibility of Gibson getting tired of this cowboy routine. Opener “Bleed to Death” has Gibson instantly ruminating on his possible death and subsequent rebirth into filth. “Daddy I Cut My Hair” has Gibson sighing, “young shitty people say / they want a Texan touch”, asking if his traits are becoming gimmicks. Then again, on the same song, Gibson claims “daddy I cut my hair / I don’t look crazy now” over gorgeous, sea-sick synths. Carnation certainly shows Gibson taking scissors to his signature sound, recutting it to a new style all the while keeping his natural waywardness. There’s simply too much debauchery still to have.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.