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There are a lot of superficial similarities between Laura Gibson and Laura Veirs -- besides sharing a given name, the pair are both artful and poetic singer/songwriters rooted in the Portland, OR, scene, both released albums in 2009 that were overseen by producer/drummer Tucker Martine, and both are NPR darlings. That's pretty much where the comparisons end, though. While Veirs' contemporaneous recording, July Flame, is a scaled-down acoustic-based affair, Beasts of Seasons is the sonic equivalent of tumbleweeds blowing through a ghost town -- or more accurately, across a cemetery; these meditations on mortality were actually written by Gibson in a room that overlooked a graveyard. Between its spare production approach, Gibson's agreeably dusty delivery, and the gloomy subject matter, Beasts of Seasons makes even the relatively low-key July Flame seem like a nonstop dance party. Gibson leaves no uncertainties hovering in the air about her thematic intentions here, crooning "If these bare walls could sing, they would sing us a funeral song" on the appropriately titled "Funeral Song," and filling many of the tunes with sharply observed, creatively deployed observations about humanity's losing battle against eternity. She brings just as much concision and power to the songs by way of her singing; Gibson's voice is a warm, husky burr, as she picks up each word and positions it just right before popping it out in a puff of sweet smoke. The way she sings "heavy in my chest" on "Sleeper," for instance, could serve as a model for the hidden punctuation vital to poetic phrasing. At one point, the sessions for Beasts of Seasons were apparently interrupted by a street parade outside, which Martine captured and dropped into a couple of carefully chosen spots, like the end of "Sweet Deception," where the words "learn to be alone" fade into the sounds of a frolicking group of party-goers, bringing to mind a New Orleans funeral procession that mixes sadness and celebration in equal amounts.