California’s Earlimart has released their 4th studio album, this one coming just a year or so after the release of Mentor Tormentor, which was one of my favorite releases of 2007. I found it an odd choice to release another album so quickly, but I wasn’t let down by this effort.
“Song For,” the opening track, begins with some bouncing percussion, as the music crashes in behind it, you are reminded of similar California acts such as Grandaddy or early Rogue Wave-neither of which is a bad comparison in my book.
Aaron Espinoza has a perfect voice for the melodic sounds of his band, as he gently sings through this album, resembling the softness of his friend Eliott Smith. It’s a comparison I am sure he is sick of at this point, but one that creeps up time and time again in his music.
“Before it Gets Better” introduces the audience to equally strong voice of Ariana Murray, the other mainstay member in the Earlimart lineup. Backed by the softness of a piano, she sings about the realization that before anything gets better, its bound to get worse. Despite the undertones of this song, Ariana allows the listener to empathize with her feelings–a good feat I dare say. Her lead role on “Time For Yourself” makes it another bright spot on the album, which I think has a lot to do with her voice in contrast to Espinoza. At some points I just find her more fitting, but that could be due to her songwriting on such songs.
Unfortunately, I found that there were some spots that missed their mark–for me as a listener. Tracks like “God Love You the Best” or “Cigarettes and Kerosene” found me searching in earnest for the uniqueness that opened the album. Even when the guitars burst in on “Cigarettes and Kerosene” I found it lacking the personality of other songs that are present. Even the title track, “Hymn and Her,” seems like a track that blends into the background of this album.
However, I found a beautiful gem on this record in the song “For the Birds.” It has the gentle quality of Espinoza, backed by the “ooohs” from Murray, all thrown into the mix with a quiet backing of piano and a strumming acoustic guitar. This is the most special moment on this album.
At times, Earlimart waiver from their focus, and it is that tendency to operate on musical tangents that has always hurt their albums. Their strengths come in when they combine Espinoza’s voice with Murray’s, using carefully constructed soundscapes to back the vocals. Lucky for us, there are plenty of those moments on this record.
Listen to the first single off the album “Song For” below: