The name Lady Lamb the Beekeeper came to singer Aly Spaltro in the throes of a dream, and the foggy then-18-year-old jotted it down before slipping back into sleep. Spaltro scrawled the honorific on the first 11 CDRs she ever recorded, and from then on, it was part of her identity.
A name like "Lady Lamb the Beekeeper" suggests pastoral, almost Victorian, folk. Like the Decemberists recruiting Joanna Newsom to record an album of Levon Helm covers. But that is not the case with Spaltro's work. Lady Lamb, who now officially eschews "the Beekeeper," makes searing revival music that draws from a bevy of genres, none of them quaint.[jump]
"It feels like I dropped dead weight," Spaltro says of the change. "[The name] pigeonholed me pretty badly. People would get this silly visual in their head, and it didn't fit the music, whereas I feel like Lady Lamb is much punchier. I wish I had committed to it sooner."
Spaltro's latest album, March's After (Mom + Pop Music), only furthers the dissonance established by her 2013 debut, Ripley Pine. Coinciding with the name change, Spaltro set out to make After a more direct, concrete album than its forebear.
"I wanted it to be more concise," Spaltro says. "For this record, for me, the fun of putting it together was in my apartment in headphones late at night all alone." While recording Ripley Pine, Spaltro channeled her vision through a studio band in her home state of Maine, but After was built off demos Spaltro stacked herself in her Brooklyn apartment. Pines took 10 months of studio time to assemble, whereas After was completed in about two."The process was definitely much different," she says. "But I really loved the aspect of being at my home and fiddling with things, and making all these sounds any time of night without making any noise. It was really fun." [page]
And though she sprawls into territories of grunge, Appalachian folk, and chamber pop, Lady Lamb wrote lyrics for After that are more focused. On "Billions of Eyes," she relates the communal euphoria of nearly missing a subway car, and on "Milk Duds," she centers on the eponymous candy to talk about losing the familiarity of an ex-lover. Even "Dear Arkansas Daughter," a song that, at face value, could be the lead single from The Decemberists and Joanna Newsom Sing Helms' Hits, is a sharply written alt-rock elegy.
However, Spaltro didn't intentionally set out to streamline the content to the form. "It wasn't a conscious decision," she says. "The only thing I can say about the difference in lyrics between the two albums is my age difference. I was 18 or 19 with the first album, and now I'm almost 26. And the majority of these lyrics are fresh, so there's a thematic shift."
With that age progression, the lyrical content became more thoughtful and existential, bringing the music along with it. And with that thoughtfulness comes a more dynamic sound. Most times, Spaltro's lyrics dictate the mood of her music, meaning that songs on After course with energy, surging from intimate a capellas into riotous choruses.
On "Violet Clementine," Lady Lamb spins a lullaby into a dark and almost menacing stomp in an instant. "Vena Cava," After's opener, drops into a punkish slide after an opening verse of bucolic caroling. In a live setting, "Vena Cava" is an ebb of adrenaline that perfectly exemplifies Spaltro's ability to pounce. "I ain't no warrior or king," Spaltro's lyrics declare, "but how I am one when I sing."
There's nothing apicultural about songs that thrush like Lady Lamb's. Though she's shed one qualifier, Spaltro is clear that she's still less docile than her stage name suggests. "The problem is that people get it wrong. Lady Lamb is a woman," she says. "It's not some little sheep. I hate that people think that."
Lady Lamb plays the 7th St. Entry on Tuesday, May 5. Rathborne opens. 7:30 p.m., 18+, $11/$13.
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