Aly Spaltro is well-versed in the best kind of honesty: sweet and tempered when you need it, but an unapologetic gut punch when it counts. On her sophomore release as Lady Lamb, Spaltro kicks her candid brand of lyrical prowess into high gear, pairing imagery-rich observations on mortality, family and UFOs with bold, bright arrangements of jangly guitars, jubilant horns and vintage synths.
On Ripley Pine, her debut studio album as Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Spaltro gave her growing fan base something to swoon about. Known for her ferocious live performances, the self-taught multi-instrumentalist who began crafting her multi-layered tracks in the basement of the Maine video rental store where she worked fleshed out her powerful solo compositions with a full band. While Spaltro’s voice is a commanding force on its own, the additional players injected more depth into her heady arrangements. Ripley Pine’s added heft was largely a success, but Spaltro’s abrupt transition from bedroom artist to bandleader bubbled through on a couple of disjointed tracks. After skips this unease and goes straight for self-assured rock ‘n’ roll, ditching “the Beekeeper” portion of her stage name in the process.
“Vena Cava” leads off After with breezy strums and relaxed vocals before charging into an explosion of fuzzed-out garage rock. Spaltro plays up her strengths as a songwriter by delivering clear, fuzz-free lyrics, while keeping listeners on the edge of their seats via loud, layered pops of punk. The result is a sound that straddles the line between a sunset stroll and a total grunge show—an appropriate metaphor for the album as a whole. The pure-pop of “Billions of Eyes” is more sunset and less grunge, with bouncy, ‘60s-style guitar licks and a sparkly twee chorus of “da-da-da-da”s. Supported by a catchy canvas, borderline somber lyrics like “And I can tell you the story of how my great-grandmother’s sister was deemed a saint/How they exhumed her body after years of being buried and the fact that she hadn’t even begun to sully/So the moved her again/Straight to the Vatican” seem light and fluffy, allowing for more of an impact.
Later, “Penny Licks,” which originally appeared as a lo-fi number on Spaltro’s home-recorded Mammoth Swoon LP, adds handclaps into the mix, leading off with muted vocals and a weightless wash of synths before bursting into an exuberant chorus—“We will crane our necks/We were not meant to build the city up”—packed with sunny horns and punchy, robust percussion. “Dear Arkansas Daughter” is free of poppy embellishments, slinking through slow-moving guitars and lyrics about dying love.
On After, Spaltro shines as a songwriter who doesn’t shy away from pairing her prose with out-there arrangements. While most tracks are easy enough to hum along to, laced with warm banjo and pretty keys, it’s the unexpected explosions of warped guitar solos that make Lady Lamb’s softer moments standout—and the album as a whole succeed.