Record Review - 4 August 14 2003

Hardship inspires some of the best music. Case in point: Earlimart's Aaron Espinoza has turned the crumbling of his world into heartfelt and bittersweet pop. After the disintegration of an earlier version of Earlimart, which included his breakup with bassist Ariana Murray, and the death of friend Doug Kratz in a plane crash, Espinoza holed up in "The Ship," a California studio, to live and record.

What resulted was paradigm shift for Earlimart (which has since partially reunited, with Murray). What before was fierce and visceral, became moody and multi-layered. Beginning with the marching drum beat of "We're So Happy (We Left the Piano in the Truck)," texture upon texture begins to gather, mix and finally interweave into a ethereal tapestry of coherent sounds. Grandaddy's Jason Lytle, whose own music resembles Earlimart's, not only encouraged Espinoza to mine the less primitive areas of his psyche, but he and guitarist Jim Fairchild produce two tracks on Everyone Down Here.

It's not easy to figure out what is Espinoza's own production work and what is Lytle's. Who is responsible for the computerized synths of "We Drink on the Job" or the swirling reverb that opens "Lost at Sea" — both effects utilized to full effect on any Grandaddy disc? This inability to sonically differentiate Espinoza from Lytle makes the record even more fascinating. And Espinoza's ebb-and-flow song ordering, as well as his use of concise song structures (the album times in at just over 30 minutes), makes this album a must-listen.

Earlimart plays The Earl Sat., Aug. 16. $7.