Earlimart’s music is a peculiar little anomaly in indie rock. There’s nothing overtly complex about it, but it always sounds fresh and interesting. It’s warm and fuzzy but has the benefit of big label production values. And though it sounds friendly and upbeat, Aaron Espinoza’s lyrics are often a little sad, though never completely depressing. Earlimart plays simple, charming indie pop that’s nearly impossible not to like. And if you don’t, I might suggest that you lighten up a bit.
Like their regional peers, Grandaddy, Earlimart’s approach to music involves layers of sound and full-sounding arrangements, though never indulgent or too ornate. Treble & Tremble is an album with just the right amount of everything. There are just enough ballads to offset the rockers, just enough rockers to keep the album exciting, enough distortion to make it a rock album and enough piano to keep it from being too much of a rock album. Earlimart revels in contradictions, though that’s part of what makes them so good.
The other part is just that they’re great songwriters. A song like “First Instant/ Last Report” is a tight, two-and-a-half minute pop gem, filled to the brim with layers of guitar, piano, mellotron and transcendent, life-affirming melody. It’s joy in a digestible single format, something that’s not altogether rare, but not as prevalent as you’d hope. But Earlimart makes entire albums of these. “The Hidden Track” follows suit, replacing some of the fuzzy guitars with acoustics while Ariana Murray’s piano plays a more pronounced role. Espinoza’s voice also gets stepped up a bit here, subdued yet affecting, sounding like a cross between Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle and Elliott Smith. His whispery style is emotional, yet charming, producing a manufactured shyness that comes off really well on tape. Though, I’ve never met him. He could actually be really shy.
“Broke the Furniture” takes another turn into uncharted territory, featuring a slide guitar melody that glides over the lazy backing, sounding like George Harrison’s solo work augmented by more synth. And just as you’ve found yourself settled into the groove of the band’s low-key indie pop, they crank the volume up and blow the speakers out on “Unintentional Tape Manipulations,” an overdistorted sludge-rocker with odd sound effects and distorted vocals. It’s an unusual turn for Earlimart, but nothing they aren’t completely competent and able to handle well. And that’s just how awesome Earlimart is. Treble & Treble is the sort of album you would expect from them, decorated with little surprises here and there. Nothing so bizarre as to turn anyone off. Just the occasional change of pace to keep it interesting. But even an album’s worth of songs like “First Instant” and “The Hidden Track” would be enough to keep a pop geek like me happy.
We were thinking of making “Treble in Trouble” by Ted Leo the official theme song of Treble. Then we considered making Treble Charger the house band, though you don’t hear much about them anymore. And now that Earlimart has released Treble & Tremble, it might be time to dub that Treble’s official album. I’m not sure if that even means anything, but for the time being, we’re content with making it Album of the Week.
Grandaddy – Sumday
Sparklehorse – Good Morning Spider
Death Cab for Cutie – Something About Airplanes
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.