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To many, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper (aka Aly Spaltro) is an enigma. Her songs are at once intimate and unbridled- both deeply personal and existentially contemplative. 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.
It was in Spaltro’s home state of Maine that she first found her voice among thousands of films in the independent rental store where she worked the closing shift. After hours, Spaltro would create songs completely uninhibited by musical conventions, learning to play and sing as she hit record. A handful of these songs were carefully curated and fully arranged for her debut studio album, Ripely Pine (Ba Da Bing! Records).
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. These new works – which found Spaltro co-producing with her Ripely Pine partner Nadim Issa – 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. Where Ripely Pine 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 constant throughout the album.
Former Yellow Ostrich frontman and touring member of The Tallest Man On Earth Alex Schaaf will release his debut full-length album as Human Heat on September 15, 2017 via Offline Records.
The album was mostly self-recorded in Schaaf’s home studio, and was mixed and mastered by Zach Hanson (Bon Iver, The Staves) at April Base in Fall Creek, WI.
A recent arrival in Minneapolis, Schaaf had been based in Brooklyn the past few years after moving from Wisconsin to start Yellow Ostrich. Schaaf toured the world with the band’s signature vocal-loop and guitar fuzz style, quickly gaining a sizable audience and signing to Barsuk Records. After four years, the band wrapped up in 2014, with the guys interested in pursuing new avenues of expression.
Schaaf then hit the road with other bands, backing artists such as Tei Shi and The Tallest Man on Earth. However, after a few years Schaaf started getting hungry to again focus on his own music. Work started on a new project called Human Heat. Progress was slow at first, as Schaaf worked on a batch of songs for a few months without anything really sticking.
But then, after the sudden end of a relationship at the end of 2016, Schaaf left Brooklyn and relocated across the country back to his native Midwest. Dealing with the raw feelings and heartbreak that emerged from the breakup, Schaaf scrapped old songs and quickly wrote new ones seeped in the bittersweet emotional aftermath. This fresh spark of inspiration manifested as All Is Too Much, his debut full-length as Human Heat. Gone are the quirky vocal loops and signature guitar fuzz of Yellow Ostrich, as Schaaf has transitioned to a smoother, more assured and mature voice — keeping the earnest feelings but channeling them into something new, a sound full of warm synths, heavy organs and stately rhythms.
“These definitely feel like the most personal songs I’ve ever done,” he said. “Heartbreak is one of the oldest pains around, but it was a new one for me.”
Drawing inspiration from old favorites like Arthur Russell and Bill Withers, as well as incorporating more contemporary hints of Caribou, James Blake and Bon Iver, the songs pulse with a barely restrained energy, ranging from the downbeat heartbreak ballads “Remember When” and “Someone Closer” to more upbeat R&B bangers like “I Need My Space” and “Best For You”. The album closes with “2 Is a Stranger”, a song centered on quiet piano and vocoder that lays out a delicate strategy for how to move forward. Hanson plays drums throughout the album, and Jon Natchez (The War on Drugs) adds horns on two tracks. Schaaf has assembled a live band of local Minneapolis musicians that has already started playing shows around the area, preparing for a tour around the album release.
The live band includes local musicians Matt Vannelli (Haley Bonar, Van Stee, Warehouse Eyes), Kevin Scott (Eric Mayson, Hotelecaster, Warehouse Eyes), and Mike Gunvalson (On An On, Val Son, Warehouse Eyes).