228 W 2nd St
Pomona, CA, 91766
Doors 8:00 PM
This event is all ages
To many, Lady Lamb is an enigma. Her songs are at once intimate and unbridled– both deeply personal and existentially contemplative. Aly Spaltro is a fearless performer who can command a pitch black stage with nothing more than her voice. Yet, when the band bursts in and the lights come up, what began as a demonstration of restraint shifts seamlessly into an emphatic snarl. On her newest work, After, Spaltro explores dualities further – giving equal attention to both the internal and external, the before and after. Her most palpable fears and memories are on display here, with a familiar vulnerability even more direct than her last effort. After boasts driving rhythms, bold melodies, candid lyricism, and a growling sonic stamp that is all her own.
Spaltro’s formative years were full of change – moving houses, cities, and countries every three years until she landed in her family’s home state of Maine. It was here that Spaltro found her voice among thousands of films at Bart & Greg’s DVD Explosion, an independent rental store in the small coastal town of Brunswick. During the day Spaltro would rent movies to the locals. At night she would lock up, pull out her 8-track recorder, and create songs completely uninhibited by musical conventions, learning to play and sing as she hit record. These creations brought forth nearly one hundred recordings, twelve of which were carefully curated and fully realized on her 2013 full-length studio debut Ripely Pine (released on Ba Da Bing! Records). Ripely Pine garnered praise for its lyrical intricacies, emotive vocals, and often unpredictable musicality, introducing Spaltro as a formidable new artist.
In between tours, Spaltro returned home, focusing with laser-like intent on writing, arranging, and demoing the songs on After. These new works – which found Spaltro co-producing with her Ripely Pine partner Nadim Issa at his Brooklyn studio, Let ‘Em In – are sonically vibrant, with an assertive use of grit and brightness. Thematically, they provide direct insight into Spaltro’s rumination on mortality, family, friendships, and leaving home.
There are many songs on After that explore themes of a much larger scale. In “Heretic” Spaltro sings of a childhood UFO sighting in Arizona. In “Batter” she dies in a plane crash, while in “Spat Out Spit” she questions whether she was even born at all. Alternatively, in “Billions of Eyes” Spaltro can “only see into her suitcase,” her mind simultaneously present and wandering as she “gnaws [her] way back home.” The tender and sparse “Ten” delves into her mother’s childhood diary, giving the listener a clear view throughout into some of Spaltro’s warmest memories of her loved ones. Ripely Pine was marked by an undeniable passion and confidence, but where it sometimes lacked in personal narrative and directness is where After shines. The last line on After encompasses the self-assurance of the work as a whole, stating “I know where I come from.” This theme is a constant throughout After, as Spaltro seeks to allow the listener to move in closer than ever before, to reflect on the past with grace, and envision the future with fervor. Spaltro invites us to contemplate the dualities that make us human, encouraging the celebration of both fear and love: internally and externally, before and after.
Anyone looking for an all-encompassing statement-of-purpose for SOFT, the hyper-caffeinated new record from Rathborne will find it in the first line of the second song when Luke Rathborne – chief songwriter and principle persona – hiccups, "Heard you gotta get it in motion." From that moment on, SOFT never stops moving bounding from one jagged-edged neo-New Wave song to the next, marrying the fast-and-loose ethos of The Ramones with the coiled neurosis of early Devo and the melodic ease of classic R.E.M. and Tom Petty. "The feeling of the record is incredible energy," says Rathborne. "Youthfulness, lust – the feeling of breaking out of yourself, unchaining yourself, forcing yourself to be free."
That same spirit of optimism and restlessness also characterizes Rathborne's career to date. He learned how to play guitar at age 12, when a stranger who was passing through the small town in Northern Maine where Rathborne lived left the instrument at his house ("There was a lot of freewheelin' types passing through my house when we were kids," he chuckles). Inspired by the DIY spirit of punk rock, he recorded his first album, After Dark, when he was just 16 years old, sneaking into the recording studio of his local college late at night and teaching himself how to use the equipment. "I guess ambition when you're young is really unusual," Rathborne says, "But I just couldn't really find a place in high school." Rathborne relocated to New York when he was just 18, where he connected with famed Tin Pan Alley producer Joey Levine. From there, Rathborne began steadily honing his skills, booking himself a weeklong UK tour, netting a slot opening for The Strokes at South By Southwest and recording the EP "I Can Be One/Dog Years," which earned him an appearance on the BBC's 6 Music. "In the course of making those records," he says, "I've gone from being a 16-year-old kid to being an adult."
That maturity is evident throughout SOFT, a story of heartbreak and redemption that told in spit-shined Buddy Holly vocal melodies. Produced by Rathborne and Emery Dobyns (Antony & the Johnsons, Battles, Noah & the Whale), with mixing and co-production by Gus Oberg and The Strokes' Albert Hammond, Jr., the record nestles honey-sweet hooks inside tangles of guitar and Darren Will's percolating bass. "Some of the punk bands I had been in as a teenager sounded like this, "Rathborne says, "So it's a 'return to punk' for me in some ways."
That comes through in songs like "Wanna Be You," where Rathborne sighs and pines over a whistling synth line and a taut cluster of guitar that recalls vintage Nick Lowe. "That's really a song about identity," Rathborne explains. "It's about figuring out why people love each other, why they want to be each other, and when that crosses the line." "Last Forgiven," which Rathborne says is about "redemption and yearning," cruises and dips like a roller coaster going half-speed.
Despair and hope commingle in "So Long NYC," a speed-racing, Guided By Voices-style power-pop number in which Rathborne flips the mythologizing associated with New York on its head. "It's like the antithesis of a Frank Sinatra song," he says. "There was a point for about a year where I was crashing between peoples' apartments, walking around feeling hungry. I would work in a bar near Union Square and then walk around the streets after it was dark. Wandering through New York City late at night when everyone else was asleep, It made me feel like I had stumbled onto something secret."
That contradictory impulse – romanticism and cynicism, energy and exhaustion, is what powers SOFT, and what dusts its cotton candy melodies with a fine layer of grit. "As you get older, the feeling of being drawn between love and cynicism grows exponentially – almost like someone in medieval times being stretched out on a rack," Rathborne says. "Art is about making a connection between those things." That's what Rathborne does throughout SOFT, and the results are as infectious as they are complex. "There's something hidden in there for everyone," Rathborne explains. "We're all reaching for something, and art helps people deal with those things. I hope people realize the album is about something deeper than what's on the surface. It's a record about hope and redemption and energy and possibility. And hopefully, it can be a record about people's lives."
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