Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Lady Lamb - After (2015)

While I received my crash course in Lady Lamb during her opening set for Typhoon's show at Webster Hall I was struck almost immediately with the absolutely visceral nature of Aly Spaltro's lyricism. But that's just one of the various facets I found in Spaltro's lyrics when I had time to actually sit down and digest. Spalto is a charming storyteller - often threading more than a song's worth of narrative together to create songs that deliver in a way you don't quite expect. You're struck more by the feeling than by the evident though behind the linked verses. In a way Spaltro's lyricism has always been characterized by a bit of the surreal so that when it was announced that After - Spaltro's follow up to her tremendous Ripely Pine I was surprised and wary. Surreal is often a descriptor for weaker lyricists with potential for growth whose songs are mostly typified by nonsense ramblings. It was a descriptor that was strange to see bestowed upon Aly Spaltro but found apt for lead single "Billions of Eyes".

Though "Billion of Eyes" is full of Lady Lamb's trademark charisma, it was the first time I noticed the disjointedness of Spaltro's lyrics in such a glaring way. Ultimately about feelings of tour - Spaltro tries to capture the spirit of how little things essentially make life on the road liveable from creature comforts to the kindness of strangers. Spaltro never really travels off that course but it's the rare moment where you get the feeling that this is material for at least two songs. It's less of a sense of being overstuffed but when Spaltro offers an anecdote about how her grandmother's sister was deemed a saint and moved to the Vatican, it's a jarring disconnect. Luckily the song is a poppy folk rock confection so it still goes down easy but it was a worrying introduction into Lady Lamb's surreal new album.

Fortunately those worries were misplaced. On After, Spaltro takes full liberty with the narrative freedom a surreal venture gives her. "The vena cava, the most superior, the queen bringing blood into the chamber" is the first line uttered on After and appropriately sets up expectations for the album - namely to expect none. On "Vena Cava" and essentially all throughout After, Spaltro weaves between the mundane and the fantastical, between dreaming and waking state while also harkening back to Ripely Pine's signature moments ("Aubergine", "Crane Your Neck") more just in casual reference than any atempt to replicate their success. It's a subtle nod that establishes Spaltro's efforts to build upon her history instead starting completely from scratch each album cycle even as she embarks upon new methods of writing and production.

Spaltro hits a familiar note in "Sunday Shoes" which takes a grisly folk tale turn with a disarmingly sweet delivery. While her most violent moments where usually accompanied with an appropriate uptick in energy, "Sunday Shoes" proves that Lady Lamb doesn't always draw from the same well while also creating ones of the album's most devastingly beautiful moments.

Considering all Spaltro really had to do was just maintain, After more than delivers while containing enjoyable additions to Lady Lamb's rapidly growing catalog. Spaltro is growing comfortable with her riotous brand of folk rock without merely retreading is a commendable feat in itself. After is an album of considerable strength - of interesting, unique song structures and lyrical heavy lifting that's presented with a sense of effortlessness that still remembers to be ear catching and pleasant to listen to. While not particularly dense - After is the kind of album that rewards the listener with each subsequent listen as the reoccurring themes, repurposed ideas, and narrative links reveal themselves both the more and less you look for them.

Lady Lamb's latest album After is out now on Mom + Pop.

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