Lady Lamb the Beekeeper is this week’s OurStage Pro Artist of the Week. You may remember her (a.k.a. Aly Spaltro) from such exclusive recording sessions as OurStage’s Songs of the Revolution or from such MTV Needle in the Haystack spotlights as this one.
OurStage Songs of the Revolution session:
The music of Lady Lamb the Beekeeper is, in quick summary, impactful, melodic, abstract, often stark, and drenched in alluring imagery. Usually armed only with her instrument (which can vary) and confident voice, Spaltro commands the attention of any audience.
In the three years since her first feature on OurStage, the initially impressive Maine to Brooklyn transplant has grown even further as a songwriter and performer, and has gained a growing swell of well-deserved national attention. This week, she releases her new LP for Ba Da Bing! Records, Ripely Pine.
In contrast with her prior releases, which were often home demos marked by sonic and stylistic experimentation, Ripely Pine is beautifully recorded “ perhaps as close to ˜slick’ as she, or we, would want the music to be. The spare nature of Lady Lamb’s music is essential to its force “ her voice is the driver and the focus. Yet somehow Spaltro and producer Nadim Issa manage to create a soft atmosphere around her plaintive vocals and un-adorned guitar that make it all feel quite lush. Between the ambient noise, layered vocals, and well-tamed reverb, songs like Little Brother are as potent and fulfilling as though they were fully orchestrated. Conversely, Mezzanine features significant string and woodwind parts, yet strikes as hard as any punk song.
New to the table are full-band songs like Bird Balloon, which swings in an Elliott Smith/Heatmiser kind of way, with a very Smiths-esque melodic turn in one section (since we’re doling out comparisons) and a very pretty break-down bridge. Yes, it veers pretty wildly, and that is one of the hallmarks of the record, and one of Spaltro’s unique talents “ she is quite an arranger. While some songs remain simple, they rarely have easily classifiable verse-chorus-bridge parts, and the more complicated songs are built with parts that are more like movements.
Ripely Pine is bizarre and beautiful, the fully realized sound of a musical thinker whose output could be described as joyous, despite its often melancholy imagery and its frankly pained and raw delivery. It is simply a thrill to listen to music so unpredictable and in love with music itself.
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Didn’t listen to the radio over the past year? You’re not alone. Terrestrial radio listenership has been declining steadily. Listeners turn more to Internet radio, which is usually tailored to the listener’s specific tastes. Thus they don’t get the kind of broad-spectrum popular music survey represented at the Grammy Awards.
If you are among those who need (and, importantly, want) a crash course on what’s popular in music right now, Spotify has made a playlist of winners from last night’s ceremony. Check it out here.
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After about a year of heightened anticipation, Rakim Mayers – better known as A$AP Rocky – has unveiled his debut album, Long.Live.A$AP. Released on January 15 by A$AP Worldwide, Polo Grounds Music, and RCA Records, the album has made a rather big splash in the urban world and has earned the artist a multi-million dollar record deal, the likes of which have not been seen since 50 Cent began his successful career about a decade ago.
Quickly rising through the cracks of the underground rap world, A$AP Rocky’s debut album has earned him a seat the top at the top of the charts. Long.Live.A$AP features two promoted singles – “Goldie,“ which is the lead single off the album, and “Fuckin’ Problems,” which features guest appearances from rappers Drake, 2 Chainz, and Kendrick Lamar. The two tracks are quite different from each other in terms of style, energy, flow, and lyrical content, but are both very well produced. In fact, the entire album is well structured with heavy emphasis on production value. A$AP’s beats are unique to that of many other rappers, which is perhaps why many have flocked to his music; it’s a new sound.
Unfortunately, guest artists and featured producers aside, A$AP Rocky’s material is perhaps the weakest aspect of the album. A$AP offers next to no lyrical inventiveness, nor is there any actual substance to his lines. He spends most of his verses re-hashing well-worn hip-hop tropes “ bragging about his high-fashion tastes, his glamorous life, and supposed street cred, the latter a frequent source of controversy.
Writing a sophomore album is a tricky prospect, especially when a band has received a massive amount of buzz and critical praise in relation to their relatively short lifespan. Groups crumble all the time under the weight of these expectations “ whether from themselves or from the media “ and often are unable to recapture the magic of their first major release: the one that they had their entire lives to conjure, instead of just a few months between tours and promotion. The rapid pace of the blogosphere has magnified the effect of this pressure, churning out new acts by the day that are effective sonic replacements for any formerly beloved group that has failed to pass muster on a new release. Add in the democratic and anonymous nature of the Internet, which emboldens the opinionated to release the type of caustic criticism that most would hide in person, and it is understandable why many bands today would have some trepidation regarding the release of new material.
Local Natives seem like they may be aware of, if not certainly reactive to, these perils. In part, because their second release Hummingbird does not stray far stylistically from Gorilla Manor, the debut album that put the Los Angeles group on the map in 2010. The band’s chiming guitar parts and multi-part harmonies remain, as do their intricate percussion lines that often form the focal points of their studio compositions and their energetic live shows. For some bands, the re-creation of a uniform sonic profile reminiscent of a past release could be interpreted as an insurance against loss, a way to satisfy those listeners who are expecting more of the same from a band they already enjoy. For other groups, the preservation of the same style could simply signify their love of that particular sound, and their desire to wring it dry for all of its latent value.
In 2001, the romance of technology was still lighthearted. For Daft Punk, erstwhile pioneers in the world of mainstream electronica, the technologies that propelled their “Digital Love” single to success in the new millennium “ the soft synths and sampled wurlitzers “ still weren’t at odds with human affection, human love, human communication. They were an addendum, a side note to human intimacy, which still had supremacy even in an age of gradually encroaching machines that would slowly command more time, love, and money than many interpersonal relationships. That time was still to come, though. At the turn of the millennium, America was reeling from other wounds, and the crush of technology was really not a concern. (more…)
Since 1998, Matt Pond has been releasing perfectly crafted indie rock albums under the moniker Matt Pond PA, but with his most recent release The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand, Pond has dropped the “PA,” indicating a definite shift in tone. We caught up with Pond to chat about the songwriting for the new record, what he loves about being on the road, and the allure of a career in academia “ were he not to be in a relentlessly touring rock band.
OS: The loss of the PA from your name signals some type of change in mentality or style. How would you compare your upcoming album to [2010’s] The Dark Leaves?
Matt Pond: I finish every album with some kind of staggering realization. It’s not the objective, but it always happens. As we worked on the album, each member slipped away. So that by the end, it was just me and Chris Hansen. Incidentally, Chris is my best friend and the best musician I’ve ever played with. And that’s not hyperbole. I guess The Dark Leaves was about acceptance and The Lives is about defiance. Because of this, I couldn’t hold onto the “PA” anymore. I don’t know if I was fired or promoted, but I definitely feel different. (more…)