‘Ripely Pine’ is not only an exciting debut from a promising indie starlet, but it’s also an early contender for album of the year.
Ba Da Bing Records, 2013
9.1 / 10
In 2011 I fell in love with Firehorse’s album, And so they ran faster…. Last year I picked Fiona Apple’s album, The Idler Wheel as my personal favorite album. And for this year, I may have already found my favorite female-fronted album. This one comes from singer/songwriter Aly Spaltro, who only began her journey as a musician from teaching herself songwriting during downtime while working at a DVD rental business. However, her release as Lady Lamb The Beekeeper boasts the same experimental grandeur of a seasoned artist as Jason “Spaceman” Pierce. What we have with Ripely Pine is not only an exciting debut from a promising indie starlet, but it’s also an early contender for album of the year.
Although she’s a part of Ba Da Bing Records, Spaltro’s songwriting captures the essence of the Saddle Creek roster, known for its wordier musicians. I’m not comparing her with any of the label’s female members either. Spaltro writes with the same creative, freestyle lyricism of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst while also punctuating it with the venom and unhinged fury of Cursive’s Tim Kasher. Also, much like Fiona Apple, Spaltro is able to sing you to a lull and then blindside you with a walloping wail. You have my attention; please don’t hurt me.
Her presence has a spark to it that isn’t learned overtime but is inheritably gifted to so few. She carries herself with a beguiling charisma that some reality shows pretend to discover (*cough* X-Factor *cough*). Musicians can sing about broken relationships, loneliness and faith to great lengths without ever adding anything remotely resembling substance. Spaltro doesn’t make this mistake; maybe even peppering her songs with a bit too much (if that’s bad thing).
In her opening song, she doesn’t just pronounce a disdain to getting married but likens it to being thrown off a cliff. On from “Hair To A Ferris Wheel”, she points out her issues with love in a dreamy bookended prologue and epilogue and a tumultuous middle section to arrive at an “apples and oranges” conclusion for any two people that wind up together. And instead of finding happiness, she muses that “Maybe hearts are better bitter / Better filthy, vulgar” on the acoustic “Florence Berlin”. The acoustic performance allows Spaltro to show her skyscraper range.
Ripely Pine bursts forth with chamber pop elements from violin to bluesy brass that accentuate the epic scale of the album’s songwriting. Some of the album’s songs stretch past the six minute mark — shaky territory for any artist, let alone a newcomer. However, her lengthy songs are amazingly constructed, absent of uninteresting turns, which is another signal of the young songwriter’s talent. “Crane Your Neck” is one such moment where she injects the six-plus minute song with a surprising bluesy guitar riff around the “twist your hips / and crane your neck” line. Then she brings things to a silent crawl, letting her screaming voice take the spotlight.
While listeners are likely to pick up on nuisances in repeated listens, I doubt there is any debate on which song is easiest to get hooked by. That honor goes to “Bird Balloons” where Spaltro’s manic energy is at its most effective, a combination of fury and a frenzied pace. Going past the six minute mark on it as well, she has a lot to say, and listeners likely won’t catch it all the first time around. “I’m looking for a new muse / You only made me tired”, sings Spaltro. On her debut Lady Lamb The Beekeeper album, she doesn’t sound tired; instead, she’s passionately energetic and hungry to prove herself. Guess what. She did just that.
Purchase: Lady Lamb The Beekeeper – Ripely Pine