MAKING HER OWN IMAGE Lady Lamb the Beekeeper gets going with a powerful disc.
The delivery is primal, shouted: "I'm as blue as blood before the blood goes red." It is just one more reminder late in Lady Lamb the Beekeeper's debut album, Ripely Pine, that she is no meek Lamb to be led around, but rather Queen Bee, very much a force of nature. If you've even glanced at Aly Spaltro's photo (she's the band, all by herself or otherwise), or seen her five-foot-nothing figure out in public, you know as soon as you hear the opening "Hair to the Ferris Wheel" that she summons her arresting voice from someplace seemingly outside herself, like her spirit is wearing a body three sizes too small.
The first bars simmer, moody with a spare electric guitar that will come to seem like Lady Lamb's fifth limb, and her voice has no huskiness that might indicate even an extra effort to get so low. "Love is selfish," she leers, "love goes tick tock tick/And love knows Jesus/Apples and oranges." What the fuck that means I don't really care because the care with which she lets each word drop is exacting, like she's mulling them over, unsure about them, wanting to view them from every angle, inside and out.
Spaltro does this throughout the album, sometimes seeming to actually move in with certain phrases, living with them for months before setting them free.
But then, after just a hint of clicking static, late enough in a long song that you've forgotten it might happen, there is a full rock entrance: "It's a zoo in your room ... and you long to kiss like you won't exist come the morningtime." The drums come in rapid-fire bursts and then there is a muscular and grungy distorted guitar solo before we're alternately caressed and slapped by a cappella vocals and staccato bursts of guitar.
From that point forward, you're on notice to be on your toes. In songs that often sprawl out past five minutes, and sometimes build in chambers of backing strings and horns, Lady Lamb will take you wherever her muse leads and it's nigh impossible not to follow.
"Rooftop" is the "single," released first to the public as though for a radio station that doesn't exist, a compact three minutes. It's probably the catchiest out of the gate, with a quick snare keeping things lively and an indie-rock plinking of notes moving up and down the fretboard as a central message. But then are there trombones that bleed in, just a scratch of high-up fiddle, then a full-on string section laying a backing bed, even clanking pots and pans for God's sake, so much going on that it's nearly overwhelming.
Overwhelming is Spaltro's stock and trade. Hearing her live, even if only on the Live at Brighton Music Hall album that was just kind of given life and let wander on the Internet last year, you'll find she may be even more strident and invested than she is here in the studio, taking a song like "Aubergine" and burying her face in it, sinking her teeth to the gums.