Earlimart - System Preferences
Earlimart's album starts with the words "I saw myself as someone else, thousands of miles and you and me," and it's easy to say that they are a band that sound like lots of other bands, but then so do a lot of other bands, so that's not really a yardstick worth using.
Pretend you haven't read that first sentence, and let's start again.
The album starts with what sounds like a Grandaddy style drone, and develops into something that wouldn't sound out of place on a Death Cab For Cutie album, with added harpsichord. 'U & Me' is a gorgeous opener, the line about heading "out to sea, this boat we built. An ocean between you and me" is simply lovely, and the instruments in the background feel like they are mirroring the rise and fall of an ocean going boat heading out into sea alongside our intrepid and lovelorn singer. It ends with the words "The stars above are lining for you," and this song feels like a good one to use as a navigation tool; a sextant for the rest of the album.
Each subsequent song moves along at a similar slow pace, and they are quite gorgeous songs. On my first listen to this album I was grabbed by anything at all, I was desperate for a change of pace, but each extra listen has revealed something new, some subtle shift that does make the album more than one dimensional. Little touches like the pianos and backing vocals on 'Shame' make this song sound like some sort of lost George Harrison track.
Earlimart are essentially the work of two people, Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray, plus a revolving cast of players, and Aaron and Ariana share vocal duties on this record, as I assume they have on previous albums, this being their fourth.
Murray takes the lead on '10 Years' and it's simply a beautiful piece of music. If you like Mazzy Star or the Sugarplum Fairies, then you will find lots to love about this song. It is the aural definition of the word 'apricity'. On first listen it seemed light and frothy, but it's just not. It's got substance, like sea foam there is something more to it, something quite strong beneath it carrying it to you.
'Lovely Mary Ann' sounds like something you would hear at the end of a promenade, or could equally be at home in a Zooey Deschanel quirky romance film. Strings and harps ripple over an insisted piano and a siren-like backing vocal tries to lure "lovely Mary Ann... home to me." Murray takes over vocals again on 'Get Used To The Sound' and it's another beauty. The line towards the end about"“Don't ask the stars for anything but ancient light, don't ask them for anything at all" utterly floored me.
The album has a range of people it sounds like, from Death Cab to Grandaddy, and on 'Sweater Weather' there is a part when I'm sure they are merging Elliot Smith with The Beatles' 'Julia'. The album draws towards its end with the up-tempo 'Internet Summer' which recalls the Death Cab influence again, but I speak as a fan, and so if you are too you can take this as a good sign.
Final track 'Over Andover' won't win them any awards for relentless innovation, it's not where they discover their hitherto unexplored grime influences, but it is an aching bit of melancholic pop, all lush strings and lovelorn lyrics over simple keys, with the obvious pun of a lyric about being "over and over." It's an elegant and beautiful way to end an album that is exactly that.
Let others spend their time exploring the darker reaches of the world for new and exciting influences; this is just a great album of beautiful songs. I already own their previous album, Hymn and Her, and had dismissed it as a bit one-dimensional. I'll not make that mistake again, I'm going straight back to it. Well, just as soon as I've played '10 Years' another couple of times.