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Earlimart



Earlimart head dreamer Aaron Espinoza is a product of California's Central Valley and you can hear it every step of the way in his band's ragged nouveau pop psychedelia. It's in the steady midtempo rhythms, which summon the pace of life out on the Big Dirt. It's in the sweetly melancholy chord progressions and warbling keys which play like refracted afternoon sunlight through the dust. It's in the drowsy, casually symphonic, distinctly quirky arrangements that make you think of surveying the rural landscape on a porch miles and miles from the L.A. sprawl after a couple of cheap beers and perhaps a bit of country homegrown. It's in the band's very name, which it shares with a little agricultural town on the 99 midway between Fresno and Bakersfield. And most of all, it's in Espinoza's breathy voice, which seeps into your consciousness like a brother you never had, regaling you with gentle, wry tales of out-of-the-way hope and hurt, isolation and frustration. It's as clear as day on the modest anthem "Burning the Cow" (a Valley euphemism for talking smack about where you're from) on which Espinoza sings, "It's where we're from and we'll always be, but we won't let 'em get to us, so come on, come on, we'll choke on the dirt, come on, come on, we'll choke on the dust, but we won't let 'em get to us, burning the cow..."

That song comes from Everyone Down Here, Earlimart's sly and subtly sublime Palm debut full-length, an album which represents the culmination of a period of serious thinking on Espinoza's part about what Earlimart really meant and should sound like. In its first incarnation, Earlimart -- which Espinoza formed upon arriving in Silverlake, Los Angeles in 1999 -- strived for noisy, off-kilter, melodic post-punk in the vein of The Pixies and the The Breeders, the latter of whom Espinoza worked with in the studio in preparation for their 2002 comeback record. After two well-received but little heard records on the Modesto indie Devil in the Woods, the lineup of this Earlimart splintered and Espinoza cloistered himself in his new Ship studio in Eagle Rock to lay down tracks for a third album, and in so doing, reinvent the band. A year later, he had the bulk of the material for his 2003 The Avenues EP and Everyone Down Here. Soon thereafter, he assembled a new lineup featuring bassist and backup singer Ariana Murray, drummer/keyboardist Davey Latter, and second guitarist Solon Bixler.

While the new recordings employed some of the distortion and weird noise that distinguished the earlier Earlimart, they were more aligned to the sunbaked analog sounds of some of Espinoza's California peers, at times suggesting the slow-burning indie folk of The Radar Bros. and the lazily orchestral pop of Grandaddy, whose frontman Jason Lytle co-produced two Everyone Down Here tracks. More than anything else though, the new recordings sound like Earlimart; they're the sound of a group deeply aware of and influenced by their peers and forebears and of a songwriter who has also truly come into his own as a lyricist and an arranger. Earlimart is now a band poised to go on to influence other, younger musicians. Anyone who has heard the new stuff will doubtless look forward to hearing what Earlimart does next.