Lady Lamb the Beekeeper: "Billions of Eyes"
from After (Mom+Pop; 2015)
By Conrad Amenta | 3 March 2015
Aly Spaltro has something to say. No, wait, that’s not accurate; she wants to share every single thing that’s ever happened to her with you.
This much is apparent across her sophomore album, whose deceptively succinct title, After, implies that we are here, listening, to the echo of everything that’s contributed to what makes Spaltro Spaltro. Its songs are full-to-bursting with peripatetic autobiography.
It makes sense, then, that at some point somebody gave her an award for being a folk artist. While her music today, and especially “Billions of Eyes,” has a distinctly indie rock flavor to it, its “spirit of the ages” take on wide-lens observation of tiny moments is a folk touchstone. I’m left with the feeling that Lady Lamb the Beekeeper seeks to be a millennial update on the folk rambler, whose train cars looking out on passing America are replaced by swipes on a smartphone screen. Every little like and favorite and anecdote is captured in song.
“Billions of Eyes” itself will be recognizable to anyone who’s been digging Alvvays or Best Coast: guitar chords cycle endlessly in primary colors and perfect dollops of delay are there to imply a sort of sepia anachronism. This aesthetic has become the common currency of the indie landscape, a kind of caveat to pop undertones that implies a broader musical literacy, and/or nostalgia, and/or authenticity, where straight-up pop has removed every last semblance of blood-and-guts humanity from its formula. Understood in this way, Spaltro doesn’t offer much more than indie’s standard, lightweight response to pop music’s overcooked production values.
But it’s Spaltro’s vocals, which alternate between ultra-detailed and nonsensical chanting, that distinguish After and make it worth a close listen. There’s enough to dig into here, enough sheer, confessional material, to give the album nooks and crannies one won’t find on first listen. And there are a lion’s share of honest moments and compelling lines, each implying a broader story, each hinting that Spaltro would be the kind of person you could have marathon drinks with and only get at the surface of what it is she’s trying to tell you. Spaltro’s got something to say. I’ll be damned if I know what it is, but it’s fun digging.