“Floating on a Moment”

Once you get beyond the shock of learning that there is new music from Beth Gibbons—her forthcoming album Lives Outgrown is the British singer-songwriter’s first major work under her own name since 2002’s Out of Season, a collaboration with Talk Talk’s Rustin Man; Portishead last released music in 2008—what might be most surprising about the song is how much Gibbons sounds like she always has. Even in her twenties, in Portishead, Gibbons sang like a woman channeling sorrows far beyond her years. Now, on the lead single from an album about aging and leave-taking, her voice sounds barely changed. And the song’s warm, spacious production—with tendrils of electric guitar snaking through vibraphone, Hammond organ, hammered dulcimer, and pedal steel—sounds, in places, like an unplugged take on Dummy’s heartbroken noir.

“Floating on a Moment” is a heavy song with an unburdened spirit; Gibbons sings of the finality of death with a simplicity that could suit a children’s book. Appropriately, the mood turns almost upbeat in the song’s finale, as a gentle choir buoys Gibbon’s clear-eyed observation: “All we have is the here and now.”