With “After,” indie-folk singer-songwriter Lady Lamb has crossed that perilous chasm of the sophomore album in beautiful fashion.
“After” is more polished than “Ripely Pine,” Aly Spaltro’s 2013 debut shorn from a cache of hundreds of recordings she spilled out into the night while working at a movie-rental store in Maine in 2007.
The album explores human mortality, its before and after and all the mess in between, citing the Big Bang, the age of the dinosaurs and alien sitings as bizarre precursors to humankind’s evolving identity. She uses laser-focused lyrics and dark visuals to hook the listener.
“Dear Arkansas Daughter,” with beating drums, spews angry indie-rock. Spaltro sings of a “dying” love “as sharp and serious as a pistol in the eye,” displays softened emotions mid-song, and then reignites into hardened bitterness.
Spaltro also reminds us that mundane things can still hold the answer to ancient secrets. In “Spat Out Spit, ” the mention of a peeled orange becomes her springboard to another dimension.
“We’re just made of flecks of the heavens, spat-out spit/We are filled with the gore, from long before” she quietly reasons.
“After” is full of lighter moments as well.
In the bright pop of “Billions of Eyes,” Spaltro expresses her ambivalence with traveling and touring.
“Some days I can only see into my suitcase/I just want to fall into a pile of warm laundry/ I just wanna keep very, very quiet,” she sings.
“Batter” creates another of Spaltro’s apocalyptic scenes, breaking the sparse song wide open right over a plane crash.
“Don’t let your demons take you to the cleaners,” she warns in the punk/folk rant, calling up the heavy subjects of Catholicism and virginity.
But after each honest, existential wondering on “After,” Spaltro returns the listener safely home, while she continues on her personal journey to hell and back.
“After” is out on the Mom+Pop label.