Aly Spaltro, the tiny, bespectacled girl behind the moniker, "Lady Lamb The Beekeeper," said her dream-born nickname was created to avoid being pigeonholed - the name was meant to incur mysteriousness and anonymity within her music. Having already toured with giants like Beirut and Sharon Van Etten, the name invokes some familiarity now.
At first sight of her, a small figure, long, unencumbered hair, clutching a guitar or a banjo, you'll frame her music into something recognizable. At first listen to Ripely Pine, her songs will start slow, solo, with just a pluck of the guitar here and there and a lonesome whisper. But maybe after a few seconds, maybe after a minute, the spike comes. The drums erupt from nowhere as it moves the tempo faster and faster. Another guitar drops in with some melting riffs. A few string parts start emerging in the distance, and then, the crowning piece, the once soothing, quiet vocals transform into an emotional wail. Suddenly, that sad, acoustic song you were expecting to hear has you sonically holding on for dear life. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper has caught you in a beautiful bait and switch.
In Ripely Pine, the artist's first studio album released this past week from Ba Da Bing Records, Spaltro channels a few of the folk-rock/pop-rock gems that were once part of her bedroom recordings and amplifies them into new heights with layer after layer of accompanying sounds. Being a notoriously complete solo performer and recording tracks on her own terms for years, it was hard for me to imagine where the band would fall in. But Spaltro took full command once again and wrote every single arrangement for the album. The record playfully tears apart traditional song structures in favor of tempo shifts and key changes that turns the experience into a musical roller-coaster with the excellent, "Bird Balloons" and the silky smooth, "Rooftop" (above), being the prime examples. It's a musically epic and cinematic debut that showcases Spaltro's tremendous growth.
It isn't to say Ripely Pine isn't for the casual listener. For new fans of Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, this is an excellent time to jump in, as her catchy melodies and soulful voice are still very much in the driver seat. Overall, it's a marvelous step out of obscurity for Lady Lamb the Beekeeper and one that boldly showcases her maturing musical prowess. Where many bedroom songwriters fall short after jumping toward the mainstream spotlight, Aly Spaltro emerges from her cocoon as an unclassifiable, explosive force for the future.+