HEADED FOR ORBIT: Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, from their “Antique Shop” music video.
Epically twee, and then simply epic, "Comet Flies Over the Underbelly" — the fourth track on Lady Lamb the Beekeeper's Samples for Handsome Animals — is, for a minute or two, almost unbearable. Aly Spaltro, the duo's 19-year-old siren (you can take the term pretty literally; hers is the most forceful voice local ears have heard in some time), coos a fast-food order with a backdrop of jingly acoustic guitar: "Hello/I would like a cheeseburger/With extra pickles please/And a french fry/Oh make it a large." Then she orders a Dr. Pepper, and just as you're ready to toss the song in the trash heap of Juno-generation pastiche, Spaltro's voice hits an uncanny pitch of desperation. At once tired, lonely, and urgent, her sighs of "I love you" and "I would never hurt you" elevate all of those nauseating pop references into something raw and familiar.
The rest of the song is quaintly reminiscent of the music of the woman it's dedicated to, the Fiery Furnaces' Eleanor Friedberger: perpetually surprising, sprawling with stream-of-consciousness scatting and fractured song structures. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper aren't nearly as precise, ambitious, or annoying as the Fiery Furnaces, but they share a certain restless idiosyncrasy. From moment to moment, the duo sound like many recent indie-pop flavors of the month, but they aren't content to stick with any one of them for long.
Nearly as charming as this 45-minute "sampler" — available at Bull Moose, it consists of both official Lady Lamb cuts and some of Spaltro's earlier, solo material — is the duo's origin tale. In short: Boy, 23 (T.J. Metcalfe), buys girl's record at a store in Brunswick; boy sees tiny girl (Spaltro, age 19) wield a huge guitar and captivate an audience at a live show; boy and girl become besties; boy sleeps on girl's air mattress; boy and girl play music together and record songs in a basement.
An irony of that low-key tale is how organized and professional Lady Lamb's rollout into the consciousness of the local music scene has been. The duo have, since May, played the monthly "Tower of Song" during First Friday Art Walks, broadcasting through much of the Arts District from a Congress Square apartment. At a street-level table, friends of the band sell records, collect tips, and sell tickets to upcoming Lady Lamb performances, of which there have been plenty: the group recently debuted at the Big Easy and SPACE Gallery, and they headline a show at One Longfellow Square on January 2, with often-blistering local rockers Dead End Armory opening. In the meantime, they've begun work on their first full-length as a duo, and found time to record a video for their winsome song "Antique Shop," which won their manager, Will Ethridge, a Best Music Video award at the Phoenix's Short Film Festival in November.
The music on Samples for Handsome Animals exhibits the same care and attention to detail as their well-rounded promotional campaign. Metcalfe's fierce garage-rock riffs on "Walrus" dovetail into carnivalesque kazoo and keyboard notes (both members often play more than one instrument in each song) as Spaltro bellows in staticky mood swings. You're tempted to call "Until I Am Bones" a showcase for Spaltro's specific, visual songwriting ("I love you/Until I am bones), until it breaks into an ebullient, ramshackle jam of bells and electric and acoustic guitars. Handsome Animals plays like a B-sides collection in the best way possible: it's the sound of an ambitious new band exploring their potential, and running across gems of ideas at nearly every turn. Be sure to check them out before they get too slick. And too popular.
Christopher Gray can be reached email@example.com.