Though Maine native Aly Spaltro has been releasing music in various forms for a few years now (starting with her first homemade CD back in 2007), it was her electrifying live shows in the last couple of years which really got people talking. Though I haven’t yet been fortunate enough to catch her live, I can imagine that her music would translate incredibly well, after all, her debut record Ripely Pine was one of the finest debuts in years. Spaltro really utilized the backing band on said record, making every song unique and memorable through an eclectic range of instrumentation and song structures. With moods varying between tracks, one thing that always came through was that Spaltro was truly passionate about what she was singing; there were points of immense vulnerability where her voice was barely a whisper and other points where she would scream at the top of her lungs. This equated to an immensely dynamic and engaging listening experience, which she has only capitalized upon with her sophomore record.
After opens with a bang in the form of “Vena Cava”, with gentle guitar plucks and stripped back vocals erupting into the gritty and heavy chorus. There is a greater confidence in Spaltro’s vocals, with the gorgeous raspy quality of her voice being increasingly prominent on this record. Similarly obscure in composition is “Violet Clementine”, which begins with Spaltro’s A Capella vocals before the banjo, yes banjo, kicks in and ramps up the pace of the track, with more layers of instrumentation and vocals being added as it progresses. This isn’t to say that After doesn’t feature some down moments to balance out the chaos; “Sunday Shoes” being the prime example. Though there are less of these tracks than on Ripely Pine, they still play a pivotal role on the record and like in the case of the former, they showcase Spaltro’s vocals in the most intimate of ways with only the guitar to back her up. The stunning “Ten” features one of her strongest vocal performances to date, showing that she is more than capable of creating a moment without the need for a dense instrumental backing.
Though After feels far more mature and developed than it’s predecessor, it does have a few big moments, namely the tense, bitter and uncompromising stomp of “Batter”. Lead single “Billions of Eyes” is probably the most straight forward track she’s released to date, the carefree chants and general breeziness of the production make it a summer anthem waiting to happen. “Spat Out Spit” features one of the record’s biggest choruses, laced with horns, hand-claps and rolling guitar. The subtle lyrical references to Ripley Pine tracks scattered throughout the record are another fun touch, the reference to personal favorite “Aubergine” in “Vena Cave” — “There ain’t no aubergine in my blood” — being an example which sticks to mind. This in many ways cements After as the coming of age record for Spaltro’s Lady Lamb project, which at this stage in her career is pretty damn impressive.
Best Tracks: Vena Cava, Violet Clementine, Heretic, Spat Out Spit, Dear Arkansas Daughter, Ten, Batter, Atlas
Saying Canadian duo Purity Ring made a mark on the pop landscape when they dropped their critically acclaimed debut Shrines back in 2012 is an understatement, they mastered the 'bedroom beats' sound without sounding try-hard or lazy. For me at least, it set a bar for both indie and mainstream pop 'bangers' to reach, and to this day very few do. With tracks like 'Fine Shrines' still getting regular airplay and exposure (mainly on brooding ads), I was fully expecting the duo's next record to smash, not only the 'blogosphere' but the mainstream charts also, they are certainly good enough. With Another Eternity, they've done just that - created a record full of ambitious and dynamic pop songs, all of which have the potential to set the charts alight.
'Push Pull' is one of the most straight forward pop tracks the duo have produced so far, melodically it is catchy and easy to digest, it also sees the qlitchy soundscapes which were at the heart of Shrines take somewhat of a backseat whilst Megan James' vocals take centre stage. One of my favourite things about Shrines was the contrast between James' sugary-sweet vocals and her graphic anatomical lyrics, "you push and you pull and you tell yourself no, it's like when you lie down, the veins grow in slow" she sings on one of the record's finest hooks. Corin Roddick's production ensures that every track has a spectacular moment, from the trap-influenced 'Stranger Than Earth' and 'Flood on the Floor' to the dance floor ready stomp of 'Begin Again' and 'Sea Castle, this album certainly contains some earth-shattering pop moments.
That being said, there seems to be an indescribable disconnect between the production, the vocals and to an extent, the tracks themselves. This is somewhat ironic considering the duo were apart when creating their debut, perhaps this is which it feels as if the intimacy that album had from the 'bedroom beats' vibe is lost here entirely. Of course the tracks are all great and this is a solid pop record, but I can't help feel that this was a lost opportunity and that the better tracks could've been showcased better.
Best tracks: Bodyache, Push Pull, Flood On the Floor, Sea Castle