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Lady Lamb - Even in the Tremor Music Album Reviews

The Brooklyn singer-songwriter’s third album takes a microscope to the messy business of being human, finding revelatory moments of empathy in the smallest everyday details.

Aly Spaltro’s music has always been verbose in a way that’s as delightful as it is overwhelming. It takes two, three, four listens to catch up with her as she describes her world in painstaking detail. Her anecdotes are unusually specific: On “Billions of Eyes,” she sings of racing to make the train, only to discover that all of its passengers were rooting for her to succeed.

On Even in the Tremor, her second LP as Lady Lamb (third, counting one earlier LP she released as Lady Lamb the Beekeeper), Spaltro’s focus shifts toward the troubles and anxieties of a late-twenty/early-thirtysomething, a striking contrast to the romps of 2013’s Ripely Pine and 2015’s After, where she unspooled her hopes and worries at an upbeat, energetic clip. Though her breathless exuberance may have faded, her incisive commentary is as sharp as ever.

Spaltro’s inclination toward maximum wordplay serves her well. Lines that might be flimsy standing alone (“The past will kill the present if I let it,” from the title track) are bolstered with startling moments of clarity—the kinds of breakthroughs that usually require hours on a therapist’s couch. Like Annie Dillard reveling in the woods, Spaltro examines emotions and sensations in microscopic detail. Her vivid observations amplify nuance and color, giving her songs a synesthetic quality: the smells of bourbon and bonfires, licking birthday-cake frosting off her fingers, juicy berries dripping in the hands of teenagers.

Her straightforward indie-rock arrangements are unobtrusive throughout Even in the Tremor—they’re neither killer nor filler, clever enough to hold interest without overshadowing Spaltro’s lyric-writing. Electric guitars and drums mostly chug along, peaking with the heart-quickening “Strange Maneuvers,” while piano and strings lend heartfelt gravitas to “Deep Love” and a somber side to “Without a Name.” On closer “Emily,” a loose touch of pedal steel makes for a fitting, hazy complement to the song’s golden-hour nostalgia.

“Little Flaws“ and “Deep Love,” the album’s first two tracks, make a tidy and compelling package deal of Spaltro’s greatest strengths. With “Little Flaws,” she casts an empathetic eye on her partner: “You’ve got little flaws just like me/You try to be hard but I know you’re a softie,” she croons over a plunking rhythm as strings and electronics glide nimbly in the middle. On “Deep Love,” she celebrates her neighbors doting on their pets and other serendipitous moments of tenderness. There isn’t a name for the ambient warmth of stumbling upon those small moments of kindness or empathy, so Spaltro describes it in her own wordy fashion: “Passing through a good scene in somebody else’s life fills my cup.” (She’s since started a social-media campaign to encourage others to share their own heartwarming moments.)

Spaltro also digs into spiritual questions with frank vulnerability, expanding her internal inventories to include the greater baggage of adulthood and the even bigger questions inherent to being human. In “Young Disciple,” she recalls watching her parents, born-again Christians, get baptized in a kiddie pool; in another striking detail, she remembers her mother explaining the Second Coming over fast-food milkshakes. This storytelling serves a deeper purpose. As she explores the things about her mother that she doesn’t understand, she recognizes that they share the same essential existential fears.

With her thoroughly detailed accounts of everyday life, Spaltro offers the comforting affirmation that complicated, hard-to-identify feelings aren’t so strange after all. Her songs, stuffed with information and emotion, act as an extended reminder to appreciate the gentler things the world has to offer—proof that even in the tremors of everyday life at its most confusing, kindness, calm, and empathy still have ample room to grow.

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