Tag Archive: Lady Lamb The Beekeeper


10. Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

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Wolf Alice is cool. Everything about the four-piece makes them likable, from their name to their ability to kick it up several notches any moment. But what may be the most noticeable on their debut is how effortlessly they switch up their style from one track to the next. Going from the serene Turn to Dust to the highway rock of Bros to the heavy reverb-laden riffs of Your Loves Whore shouldn’t work at all. But Wolf Alice expresses such grace and confidence that you’re willing to follow them down any musical paths they’re willing to take. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with songs like the face-melting, anthem-ready Moaning Lisa Smile. And that’s just the first four songs. It doesn’t let up from there. Say hello to this year’s best new band.

Highlights: Moaning Lisa Smile, Fluffy, Bros

9. Laura Marling – Short Movie

ShortMovie

When you record an album as beloved as Once I Was An Eagle, it looms like a mountain over whatever you do next. For a follow-up, you can either try to replicate that previous record’s success or you can do something new. Laura Marling, not one for sequels, went for the latter, crafting an expressive addition to her body of work with Short Movie. To do so, she stepped outside the traditional musical language of folk music, bringing in electric guitars for the first time. It doesn’t seem like a huge step, but for the reinvigorated Marling, she had a new set of songwriting tools. The results are songs like the electrifying False Hope, about Hurricane Sandy’s impact on New York, the door slam of Don’t Let Me Bring You Down and the dusty Howl. Five albums in, and she’s as brilliant as ever.

Highlights: False Hope, I Feel Your Love, Strange

8. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper – After

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Like her debut, Ripely Pine, Lady Lamb’s gift for melody, her odd and sticky lyrics and her conversational voice are intriguing throughout nearly every song. Her homemade, casual approach, combined with her off-kilter way with words and melodies, make her one of the most original voices to come out of this decade. After isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly an album that sounds as strong and mysterious the first time and 10th time you listen to it.

Highlights: Billions of Eyes, Heretic, Milk Duds

7. Torres – Sprinter

Sprinter

Mackenzie Scott doesn’t know what to do with her demons. Over the course of the beautifully raw, wrenching Sprinter, the woman known as Torres screams her lungs out on Strange Hellos, smirks her way through Cowboy Guilt and embraces denial on Ferris Wheel. “I am a tired woman/In January I will just be 23,” Scott sings mournfully on New Skin, her fingers picking away at the fretboard. While Scott turns the mirror to herself for her sophomore effort, everyone is shaped by their environment. No one leaves here unscathed. Over the title track’s guitar crunch, she blames the flaws in her church as a reason to leave her life in Georgia behind, both running away and running towards something. This introspection reaches a devastating peak on Son, You Are No Island, a harrowing maelstrom of betrayal from God’s perspective, and on The Exchange, detailing an adoptive parent and slowly diving into the topic of suicide. “I’m underwater,” Scott breathes, barely managing to get the words out. It’s a captivating end to an album that mixes the personal and the spiritual, where Scott pours out her secrets, loathing and love. When it’s all said and done though, there’s one word that fits Sprinter best: revelation.

Highlights: Strange Hellos, Son You Are No Island, Sprinter

6. The Decemberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World

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I’m not a huge Decemberists fan. I often feel their cleverness can too often slide into pretentiousness, with unrelatable characters and needlessly complex vocabulary. I liked The Hazards of Love, but I think the simplicity of this year’s release makes it a true standout. While Colin Meloy’s lyrical tendencies are still here, they come with a sly wink and are closer to real emotions than any work they’ve done before. I can empathize and identify with what he’s saying for the first time. Combine that with some of the most melodic work the band’s ever done and you have a winner.

Highlights: Cavalry Captain, Make You Better, Better Not Wake The Baby

This article first appeared at No Ripcord on May 20, 2015.

after

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, AKA Aly Spaltro, is not flashy. She could be any other person wandering down the street or hanging out in a video store. But put a guitar in her hand and she turns into one of the most inventive new artists of recent years. Her second album, After, is a tight affair that mixes solid songwriting with tracks that refuse to adhere to the same tempo or chord progression. Like her debut, Ripely Pine, Spaltro’s gift for melody, her odd and sticky lyrics and her conversational voice are intriguing throughout nearly every song.

The album’s opener, Vena Cava, picks up right where her previous release left off, excellently switching between Spaltro by herself and with a full band, simulating the move from the coffee house to the theater stage. It’s followed by Billions of Eyes, a bouncy, peppy number that creates a memorable sing-along with its wordless chorus and relatable lyrics. Everyone knows what it feels like to have “the kind of high…when I barely make the train” or wanting to “fall into a pile of warm laundry.”

The catchiest number besides Billions of Eyes is Milk Duds. It’s a smile-on-your-face song that displays how all-encompassing love can make Spaltro struggle to remember “how to climb the stairs, how to tie my shoes and how to braid my hair.” At the end though, it’s revealed that this from a past relationship that no longer exists. Rather than looking back in sadness, though, she focuses on the joy of that time in her life.

Memories play a large role in two of the album’s most direct and lyrically devastating songs. Spaltro’s voice is barely above a whisper in Sunday Shoes, as she sings with minimal accompaniment about the loss of innocence. On Ten, Lady Lamb looks back at experiences with her family and friends, as well as how their lives have changed since then. In the end, we survive through the stories we pass on to our loved ones. Or as Spaltro eloquently sings, “There’s sweetness in us that lives long past the dust/On our eyes, once our eyes finally close.”

Lady Lamb the Beekeeper is known for her ability to make melodies shine through experimental structures. The most successful of those endeavors here is Violet Clementine. Opening with just her voice and a banjo, a bluegrass vibe runs perpendicular to the dancefloor groove of the bass, which soon becomes the dominant rhythm. After an off-kilter, harmonious bridge, the song segues again into a gloriously regal marching tune, with military percussion and exuberant, yet melancholy horns pulled right out of The National’s playbook. You know how some songs seem like they shouldn’t work on paper? This track feels like it shouldn’t work while you’re listening to it. Yet, it does. After all, why write a good song around three distinct sections when you can write a great song using all three in the same tune?

Heretic does something similar with slow verses and chaotic choruses, but it doesn’t have the pull of Violet Clementine. Batter is also a unique presence on After, as it sounds like it belongs to the early-2000sgarage rock revival, with a distorted riff and a rhythmic, halting vocal take. Sure, it feels like a throwaway number, but it is fun enough that it warrants its spot on the album. While After contains some of Spaltro’sstrongest work, it has the same problem as her debut in that it runs a little too long. Unmemorable songs like Penny Licks and Dear Arkansas Daughter could have been cut and the record would have been better for it.

As Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Spaltro feels like she’s still developing her craft as a songwriter. Her homemade, casual approach, combined with her off-kilter way with words and melodies, make her one of the most original voices to come out of this decade. After isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly an album that sounds as strong and mysterious the first time and 10th time you listen to it. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

8/10

This article first appeared on No Ripcord on March 11, 2014. 

LadyLamb

Ripley Pine, the debut album from Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, was one of those records that has slowly but surely built up buzz since its release in February 2013. With arrangements that went from lush to chaotic to bare-bones, the album is a masterful mix of emotional lyrics, sharp guitar playing and sincere vocals. Many of the songs have been under development for years, but they still retain raw passion that will make any listener sit up and pay attention.

Aly Spaltro called No Ripcord from her early demoing for her second album to speak about her debut, working with Nadim Issa and her upcoming spring U.S. tour.

Joe: How did Ripley Pine come about?

Aly: It was a lot of years in the making. About half the songs had been written years before and performed as solo songs for a long time. All prior records I’d made and released on my own, and I recorded them by myself as well. This was the first time I was in a proper studio and I was arranging songs for a full band. It about a year-long process of recording, mixing and mastering. It was a lot different to what I was used to. Everything I recorded in the past I was quick about. I would essentially write and record a song and finish it in a day. This is like slaving over twelve songs for a year. It was an entirely different process but still really fun.

J: I had read that when you used to write in Brunswick, Maine, in Bart’s and Greg’s DVD store, that the process would start off as very raw, with whatever emotions you were feeling that day coming to the surface and with melodies pushing up against each other. Was that writing process something you continued for Ripley Pine?

A: I would say yes and no. Some of the songs were written at the DVD store and existed for two years before they were properly recorded. But the process in the studio was similar to the writing of the songs in the basement, just in that the overall strategy and point for me was to make the songs on the album, in the studio, still be raw and as full of emotion as they were when I wrote them. That’s in part why they took so long to record, because I was really focused on making sure that the songs were as energetic and sincere as they could be.

J: Some of your songs have an element of chaos, such as towards the end of You Are The Apple. What draws you to throw in those types of elements?

A: It was a plan of mine to make sure the music followed the arc of the songwriting and the arc of the story, or the emotion in the lyrics and the vocal delivery. So essentially, the arrangements were also written around and with the vocal melody in mind. When the lyrics or vocal are chaotic, I want the music to mirror that feeling.

J: My favorite song on the album is Bird Balloons. Can you talk a little about how that track came together?

A: That was one of the older ones I wrote years ago. It was written very in-the-moment. Even the lyrics were improvised in-the-moment. The night it was written, I just played it over and over until I felt it was finished. That one was quite a process in the studio because I was finding myself forcing instrumentation on it that wasn’t fitting. With that song in particular, I had to set some boundaries for myself and decide “Okay, I think I’m messing this up so I’m going to make a rule that the only things I’m allowed to add are more vocals or more guitar.”

J: How did it feel when Ripley Pine was finally released?

A: I was really thrilled and surprised, especially since in all honesty, I didn’t think about that at all in the writing process. For me, it was more personal, like finally closing the chapter on some of those songs that have been in my life so long. Once the album was finished, I could breathe again. I was so happy and proud of what I made. I really loved it and… it’s over (laughs). It’s over and now I can move on. Any positivity that came after it was really wonderful and an added bonus.

J: What was it like working with Nadim Issa?

A: It was the most amazing experience. I hadn’t collaborated in the past and I produced everything myself in the past. It was a nerve-wracking thing to open up my work to someone who was collaborating so closely with me. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. He was so thoughtful and passionate about the project. He really gave me the space to do whatever I wanted to do and really understood what I was going for. He just had such a good touch pushing me along when I needed that push. I’m really grateful to him. It would have been a different record if he hadn’t worked on it with me.

I think it’s very difficult to find somebody you vibe with so well. When you’re working on something so personal, it’s one thing to have band mates and collaborators and it’s another thing to work with someone who doesn’t get in the way of your vision but helps you get to it.

J: When I saw you play at Glasslands last year, you went with a half band/half solo set. Why did you choose that type of setup?

A: I think that’s just the way I will perform always. It’s best for a very specific reason, being that the project started as mine six years ago and I spent the first four or more years, mostly playing completely by myself. There was a short period of time in there where my best friend, who lives in Portland, Maine, joined the group and we were a duo for a year. For the most, people who have known my music in the past have known it as a solo project. I still find a lot of value in playing a lot of my songs solo. I know that people who have been following me for a while also value that. So it’s really important for me to give the audience both. I know there are people in the crowd who prefer one over the other. I also really love the idea that once you bring a band into the mix live, then it makes the solo songs seem a little more special. The dynamic is elevated there. I think they compliment one another within a live performance.

J: I saw you are going on tour with Typhoon this spring. How is your preparation going for those shows?

A: We toured together about three years ago. We just sort of developed a friendly relationship through that. About half of them came to my last show in Portland, Oregon. I think it’ll be really fun and a complementary sort of bill.

The practice is actually going really well. I am sort of gearing up for arranging and performing a couple of new songs with the band. I’m really excited to play those live in the spring.

J: Are you far along on the second record?

A: It’s starting out. I’m in the process of demoing arrangements for them. It’s definitely on its way. There are no plans for recording yet, but it’s on its way. I literally called you from demoing right now.

J: Do you have any further plans for 2014?

A: That’s pretty much the plan, arranging new songs and equating myself with a few of them live with the band in the spring. When I get from back, the idea is to do some more intensive planning for the process of recording. That’s the plan for the rest of the year.

Ripley Pine is available to buy now. For tickets to Lady Lamb’s upcoming tour, visit http://ladylambthebeekeeper.com/tour.