For Lady Lamb (real name, Aly Spaltro), her sophomore album After is about growing up, seeing the positives, and moving forward. When Spaltro released her debut album Ripely Pine, she was going by the name Lady Lamb the Beekeeper and writing about pain and young sadness. She may still write about pain but she’s reached a place of acceptance and found a much more controlled and powerful sound. Spaltro’s voice is reminiscent to me of Janis Joplin’s emotion and force. She strains her voice with such passion and beauty and sings like she has a lifetime full of stories and experiences but she’s only 25. There’s a distinct difference between the emotionally erratic sound of Ripely Pine and the maturity, sense of acceptance, and fierceness of After.
After is a poetic and mighty statement of growing in one’s skin. My favorite track, “Violet Clementine”, pairs grandiose sound and vocals with beautiful lyrics. In its quiet moments her words mirror the softness of the instruments and in its eruptions her words hit you with full force. The song builds in strength, until finally it explodes in harmonies, instrumentals, and magnificent mayhem.
There’s a tug of war throughout the album between calmness and chaos. Nowhere is that more present than in “Atlas”. You’re deceived from the start to think it’s a sad ballad but then like a gust of wind the chorus collides into you with strings, drums, and an upbeat flow that makes you sway side to side. Then it’s right back to a soft voice accompanied only by a gentle guitar. The tug repeats again and again until her sweet voice and sad strings fade out.
Where some songs cross back and forth between soft and heavy, “Batter” just hits hard. The instruments are hard-hitting yet simple, almost evocative of early White Stripes with just 4/4 drumbeat patterns and raw electric guitar riffs. She screeches and screams and her words cut deep – “A sharp breath exhaled beneath the surface where lungs collapse like demolition.” She annunciates every lyric as to make you hear them more truly.
Her use of instruments is a masterpiece. In “Spat Out Spit” she makes dreams come true with the eruption of horns, guitars, drums, and who knows what else. The simple beat of the drum in her quiet moments coupled with her poetic lyrics reminds me of a beatnik reciting revolutionary words in a dimly lit coffee shop.
For all the praise I have given the music, the real tour de force are her lyrics. They truly are poems put to music. On “Sunday Shoes”, her words take the forefront with a sweet sadness that wraps itself around you. She has such a unique way of saying something that is universally relatable but also so personal to her and distinct from anything I’ve ever heard – “Wept for the lord to fill her up like buttermilk pancakes at Sunday brunch” – I want to put that on a t-shirt. It’s such an original perspective on a feeling of emptiness that we’ve all felt at one time or another.
On “Milk Duds”, set to an upbeat melody, she sings of love forgotten in a youthful yet grown manner. It’s like she’s singing what you’ve been trying to put into words for years (“I am an old song that you once knew, you can’t remember me for the life of you”). Her individual use of instruments and special way of wording experiences sets her apart from so many other songwriters. After distinguishes itself because it’s not an album of ballads, it’s not an album of dance hits; it’s an album of feeling.
This album is a joyous powerhouse. It perfectly matches sadness with acceptance, sweetness with bitterness, and music with lyrics. I suggest that you get in your car, roll down the windows, drive anywhere, and blast After. Or sit down with a piping hot cup of coffee in the morning and listen to After. Or put After on as you study for finals. I just strongly urge that you listen to After.
Wed. April 15 – New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa ^
Fri. April 17 – Austin, TX @ Lamberts ^
Sat. April 18 – Dallas, TX @ Sons of Hermann Hall ^
Tue. April 21 – Phoenix, AZ @ Rhythm Room ^
Wed. April 22 – San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar ^
Thu. April 23 – Los Angeles, CA @ Echo ^
Sat. April 25 – San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop ^
Mon. April 27 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios ^
Tue. April 28 – Vancouver, BC @ Electric Owl ^
Wed. April 29 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza ^
Thu. April 30 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux ^
Fri. May 1 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court ^
Sat. May 2 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge ^
Mon. May 4 – Omaha, NE @ The Slowdown ^
Tue. May 5 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry ^
Wed. May 6 – Chicago, IL @ Schubas ^
Fri. May 8 – Ferndale, MI @ The Loving Touch ^
Sat. May 9 – Toronto, ON @ The Garrison ^
Mon. May 11 – Montreal, QC @ Le Divan Orange ^
Tue. May 12 – Hamden, CT @ The Space ^
Wed. May 13 – Portsmouth, NH @ The Press Room ^
* = w/ Cuddle Magic
# = w/ Henry Jamison
^ = w/ Rathborne