Aly Spaltro, also known as Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, is Maine’s newest indie singer-songwriter protégé. Her last album, Ripely Pine, saw her gaining some Internet exposure as well as securing an opening spot for a tour alongside Sharon Van Etten. After, her second studio album, is her first after signing with the indie sanctuary of Mom + Pop Music. The New York-based record label’s current roster includes Cloud Nothings, Lucius, Neon Indian, Wavves, and even Andrew Bird. After finds Lady Lamb rectifying her sound with a more direct approach, while also retaining the sporadic cadence that sets her apart from her indie folk counterparts.
While Ripely Pine was drenched in the expressive, After is honed-in on songwriting and creating more structured songs. “Billions of Eyes” is a wonderful single that could only be made possible by Spaltro growing as an artist and narrowing in on her sporadic nature. It’s visually rich and endearing, especially when she points out a very specific relief that only inner-city kids will understand: “The kind of high I like is when I barely make the train / And the people with a seat smile big at me / Because they know the feeling / And for a millisecond we share a look like a family does.” It’s ridiculously charming, simple, and full of introspection, even at life’s seemingly smallest moments, and it’s what Spaltro does best.
“Sunday Shoes” is another song that Spaltro had to grow into in order to pull off. It’s a settled song about her sister that doesn’t need to expound or show off its muscles. It’s the first time we find her relinquishing control and letting her music flow naturally threw her without too much nitpicking. “Ten” is a gorgeously soft and understatedly depressing tune. The production makes it sound live, while Spaltro reminisces about Halloween, jack-o-lanterns, laundry, tomato gardens, and a road trip from Hudson to Vermont. It’s incredibly observational and lives solely in the present moment. And the ending lyric is perfectly sincere and visceral: “There’s a sweetness in us that lives long past the dust on our eyes / Once our eyes finally close.”
Although we hear Spaltro fine-tuning her chaos, that doesn’t mean After lacks any spontaneity. “Violet Clementine” is rambunctious, vivid, and wild. It promptly highlights Spaltro’s amazing vocals, her banjo skills, and a combination of funky banjos and horns, which borderlines on the cinematic. “Batter” is easily the coolest song Spaltro has released yet, which contains hints of The Hives, while maintaining some dark undertones. Spaltro’s earnestness and brevity are some of her strongest artistic sensibilities. She understands timing and how to keep her songs alive and breathing without losing their assembly.
On “Vena Cava” we hear Spaltro quickly coming into her own as a songwriter and remaining present in specific moments. “And in your arms I sleep so deeply / But I can feel how you will leave me / Even as you are still sitting here / Even as your mug of coffee steams / I can feel how the seems of your ribs will separate from the seems of my ribs.” She found a wonderful balance of how to be open and forthright while at the same time pointing towards very specific feelings and thoughts.
“Milk Duds” is as appealing as the title suggests. It’s perfectly situated in the now, and contains very lively drumming patterns. Spaltro even makes a desolate connection between music and a past love of hers, and it grips right at the heart: “I’m an old song that you once knew / You can’t remember me for the life of you.”
Another element of what separates After from Spaltro’s previous work is how full the production feels. It still feels like Lady Lamb the Beekeeper from Brunswick, Maine, but it feels more animated, while at the same time feeling freeform and easy. “Spat Out Spit” is an awakening, “Heretic” is an experiment, and “Penny Licks” is an impactful homage to the past.
Although there are times throughout the album where I wish it was mixed slightly better, thus with the ending “Atlas,” as it ends with a swarm of strings and horns that blocks out her usually prominent vocals and words. However, in the same sense, the lack of exact production gives After a lot of air; it allows the songs to thrive on their own, in a way that only Lady Lamb knows how to do.