From: Portland, Maine
Story: Singer-songwriter avoids singer-songwriter trappings
Sound: Sad, bruised tunes built up into staggering, swaggering epics
The shorthand for Aly Spaltro —the Maine-born, New York-based dame behind the whimsical handle Lady Lamb the Beekeeper— is that she's a passionate singer-songwriter, getting by on the wild emotions of her voice and the convictions of her acoustic-guitar strums. Her cover of Cher's Autotuned pop concoction "Believe" is Exhibit A; Spaltro taking a song swamped into studio gimmickry and reducing it to a raw, bleeding, beating, strum-and-wail truth.
But, listening to Lady Lamb the Beekeeper's debut LP, Ripely Pine, it becomes clear that this is a reduction. Spaltro is pretty much the opposite of a coffee-house mewler with a book of beginner's chords; her songs are long, wild odysseys, encompassing a vast dynamic range as they move from quiet contemplations to dramatic exultations, with many a key change, tempo shift, and stylistic flip along the way.
Half the songs on Ripley Pine go beyond five minutes. "You Are the Apple" finds Spaltro, voice ever aquiverin', out front of a rockband backing where every riff fires like a canon-shot, horns come marchin' in, and the whole thing blows out past seven minutes. "Crane Your Neck" is six-and-a-half, and it reinvents itself several times over; employing a rock'n'roll stop-start, half-staggering swagger to match the desperation of the singing.
Fans of other sad singer-songwriters unafraid of bold dynamics and lacerating emotions —like Sharon Van Etten and Little Scream— will love Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. And, putting her on my list of Bands to Watch in 2013, list, I'm betting scores more with love her, too.