Laura Gibson has had a rough run. She left family, friends, and lover in Portland in 2014 for graduate school in New York, and broke her foot on arrival. The following spring, her East Village building burned down in a fire that also destroyed musical instruments, years of notebooks, her ID, and eyeglasses. From out of the ashes comes her new record Empire Builder (April 1), named for the Amtrak route that took her away from home. It’s a bigger sound for this Portland music-scene stalwart: her fresh, honeyed vocals buoyed by atmospheric string arrangements, thwacking bass lines, and harmonies from Peter Broderick. But it’s still all Gibson, close and clear, telling stories at once intimately personal and universal. Hear her whisper in your ear at the Old Church on April 14.
What happens when a 40-year-old straight, single woman meets her soul mate, only to find that he prefers to sleep with men? She makes him her “gusband,” at least according to Alicia J. Rose, whose five-episode YouTube and Vimeo series on the subject—The Benefits of Gusbandry—has already been lauded by pop cultural tastemakers such as Flavorwire and the AV Club. The season finale airs this month (April 28 at the Whitsell Auditorium). With as many local cameos as a Portlandia episode—is that the Aces’ Michael Fetters peeping from a glory hole?—it’s a slickly produced, sharply written, and hella funny take on forty-something singledom and the value of friendship. Highlights? An epic, episodic first date that takes place entirely in the Salt & Straw line.
A “restless, humane intelligence” is how fellow writers describe the mind of local essayist Sallie Tisdale. She’s also fearless—a quality she proved decades ago with essays on pornography (for it, as a woman), abortion (performed it, as a nurse), and death (accepts it, as a Buddhist). Such gems stud new volume Violation: Collected Essays (Hawthorne Books, April), an anthology in which Tisdale renders obscene phone calls beautiful and basements monstrous. She reads at Powell’s City of Books on April 12.