Review Summary: “Tender Warriors Club” exhibits Lady Lamb at her most intimate.
Lady Lamb has been a very personal artist from her beginnings when she first commenced experimenting with recording music through the night in the basement of a local video store she worked at. During this period, she recorded a series of “Bedroom albums” which led to her signing to a major label, and recording two stunning albums of poetic indie folk rock; both of which received much critical praise. Surprisingly, her new piece is a collection of seven intimate acoustic tracks which uncovers Spaltro’s vocal range and prowess.
Firstly, I would like to mention that I’ve always been partial to meager acoustic music or stripped sessions. Although, there are plenty of shining exceptions, I’ve always been attracted to the loud and extreme; the more going on, the more experimental, the better. I’d discovered Lady Lamb when she debuted “After” for Mom+ Pop records, and I’ve frequently returned to the outstanding numbers such as “Billions of Eyes”, “Violet Clementine”, and “Spat out Spit.” “After” contains numerous memorable moments, but was held back by a few dull ones such as “Sunday Shoes” or “Ten”, which so happened to be the few acoustic tracks on the record. So, it was to my pleasant surprise that “Tender Warriors Club”, being composed entirely of tracks as bare boned as previously mentioned, ends up being her most consistent work to date.
Another slump Spaltro seems to have overcome is her tendency to push songs to the point of being overlong. Don’t get me wrong, of the seven tunes, 3 extend past the six-minute mark, but each one never overstays it’s welcome. Kicking off the record with “Heaven Bent”, a six-minute-long acoustic ballad, displays the mature progression of Spaltro’s vocals. She picked up a rich rustic side to her once youthful output. There’s still plenty of examples of her girlish passion (“Salt”) but almost every cut we get a side of Spaltro only hinted at on previous efforts.
Lyrically, she’s always been personal and overtly poetic, at times breaching pretentiousness, but never enough to taint the final product. A few times she even tags names to her subjects, rather than letting the listener relate to the story themselves. On “Atalia” (the name of an airline) she mentions “Leah” whom apparently wrote her but for some reason she was afraid to respond. Again, on “We Are Nobody Else” she comments about her friend Frankie’s laughter. This level of intimacy doesn’t loosen its grip on the audience but instead tightens its, as the common themes seem to be vulnerability and a person’s ability to be true to themselves and others. In fact, to support this release she’s going on a “Living Room” tour, performing for small crowds in coffee shops, inns, and anywhere else that provides the atmosphere this record invokes.
What truly makes this short collection of sparse tunes is truly the small things. Tracks like “Atalia” contains an almost Mexican-mariachi band acoustic riff, while Spaltro almost moans the lyrics and to add emphasis thrown in an eerie ghost-like electronic effect. “Tangles” contains the most beautiful little addition, when Spaltro passionately bellows the chorus, in the background a barely audible angelic choir can be heard. In addition to these brief adornments, there are plenty of naked songs that end up being the highlight of the EP. “Salt” is quite frankly, the peak, but it does so relying solely on Spaltro’s strong soaring vocals over a light simple banjo line. Hell, most of this record could be played by an amateur with little guitar experience, but that never takes away from the final effect.
She end’s this satisfying record with “Crater Lake”, an uplifting camp-fire song. Lady Lamb builds a world to follow her into where we run naked in the mountains until the light fades from the earth. It’s an ideal ending to a moving piece, ending on the lines “See that tree, I will climb it, I will pick you a plum.” A simple, satisfying, and warm record to settle in the harsh cold weather of winter.
Original Review: http://www.speak-sound.com/single-post/2016/12/05/Album-of-the-Week-Lady-Lamb-Tender-Warriors-Club