When Earlimart started releasing records eight years ago, the Los Angeles band had quirky song structures and fuzzy guitars and garnered a lot of comparison to the Pixies. Later, the band’s songs slowed down, Aaron Espinoza turned down the distortion on his guitar, he and co-singer Ariana Murray started singing in hushed, breathy voices, and Earlimart started to garner a lot of comparison to Grandaddy.
By the time of 2004’s Treble & Tremble and 2007’s Mentor Tormentor, it was almost too easy to identify the Earlimart sound: Most songs start out with a two-chord progression on guitar or keyboard with Elliott Smith–like vocals singing to a former lover about the sad end of a romance. As the verses progress, the band adds more instrumentation — keyboards, strings, more guitars — and the song gets progressively more beautiful. When Murray sings “Happy Alone,” she doesn’t sound happy at all, but when the melody bounces along and touches of Mellotron-like keyboard or a bit of discordant guitar embellish the corners of the song, you may feel a shiver of happiness go up your spine. And when Espinoza sings about going to a “Cold Cold Heaven” underground, the choir of backup singers who come in about halfway through the song make you forget the cold and feel the heaven.
The new Hymn and Her finds Earlimart continuing to mine this fruitful vein, but somehow Espinosa and Murray (now the only remaining full-time members of the band) have outgrown most of the comparisons. There’s still some Smith in there, still some Grandaddy, maybe even some Pixies, but more than anything Earlimart sounds like Earlimart.
EARLIMART, The Casbah, Thursday, July 17, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $10.