The world needs more of Aly Spaltro. In an age where the genres “singer-songwriter” and “folk-rock” have become more and more synonymous with “tunes-for-wusses” and “overly-emotional-banjo-lovers-music”, Spaltro defies the conventional. Under her alter-ego Lady Lamb, Aly Spaltro is leading the movement of re-introducing raw-edginess and genuine passion to the singer-songwriter genre.
The Portland, Maine native gets things started on “Vena Cava”, possibly the best song ever named after an artery. The song leads through quiet ponderings in the verses that crash into a blaring chorus of a whirlwind of guitars. Lady Lamb is at her best on the album when following the Pixies’ formula of soft-to-loud, as she does here with the shifts from quiet acoustic guitar plucking to full grunge in the chorus. Like the name of the song, Vena Cava really gets the listener’s blood pumping and raises the bar for what to expect from Lady Lamb.
The album’s first single and best song is “Billions of Eyes”, which further cements Lady Lamb as the edgiest singer-songwriter of the year. Here she sounds like Monarch-era Feist, not afraid to adventure in the studio and let loose trying new things. In her words, the song is about how we “romanticize home when we’re away, and romanticize being away when we’re home”, but this sappy theme is presented through garage-rock freedom and an addictive “da-na-na-na” refrain.
“Dear Arkansas Daughter” is a bombastic rocker that shifts in form through its various movements. The song is highlighted by a stellar guitar solo that ends the song before Spaltro bursts back in delivering rushed and anxious vocals as if the world depends on their delivery. Producer Nadim Issa deserves a lot of credit for enhancing the sounds she established on her debut album Ripely Pine without making her feel overly polished.
At nearly an hour in length, the album is a little on the long side. Even if Lady Lamb does a great job of keeping you entertained through the album’s diverse moods, listening to the album sometimes feels like homework. Some songs, like “Ten” and “Batter” don’t really belong and feel unnecessary.
Each song has its own different vibe and sound, stretching from the banjo-stomper “Violet Clementine”, to the upbeat “Billions of Eyes”, and the stripped down “Sunday Shoes”. Lady Lamb is a deeply introspective songwriter, but what makes her stand out is that she is not allergic to noise. Whenever she’s at her most vulnerable, she protects herself by being insulated with many talented musicians and a wide diversity of instruments. Overall, Lady Lamb has risen above expectations, and her sophomore album After is one to be revisited time and time again.