What does coping with the death of Elliott Smith sound like? It sounds poignant and pretty; in essence, it sounds like Smith's spirit is living vicariously through Aaron Espinoza. Music is a catharsis for many artists and the finest music is produced when songwriting is used to expel intense emotions. On Earlimart's fourth full-length album, Espinoza deals with tragedy and loss through emotionally charged music.
The only song that I have heard off Earlimart's last record, Everybody Down Here, is the lackluster "We Drink on the Job." Recent events, however, have inspired them to create a stirring album. Treble & Tremble sounds like a lost Elliott Smith album, citing Grandaddy as an influence. Though Earlimart's melodies are not as intricate as Smith's, the moods that are evoked are the same: pensive and melancholy. Earlimart received help with production, as well as musical support, from Jim Fairchild, a member of Grandaddy.
The haunting piano and resonating vocals in "Hold On Slow Down" make it sound like a missing track from Smith's Figure 8. Espinoza, however, personalizes the song with the emotive lyrics that formulate a final plea to Smith. It is the shortest and most stripped down song on the album, but the impact is tremendous. Espinoza expresses the sentiments of those who were affected by Smith's life in his lyrics, "hold on, you might be perfect/hold on, you might be worth it." He also dangles the question, "will I see you again/and will you be smiling then?" only to answer it in the song "The Hidden Track" with the reassuring response "and you'll be smiling then."
Most of the album is either driven by a piano or acoustic guitar with threads of synths running throughout. "Sounds" and "Unintentional Tape Manipulations" don't seem to fit in with the rest of the album, because of the heavily distorted guitars. An acoustic guitar is softly strummed in the conclusion of "Sound" to release the tension created by the belligerent guitars in the beginning, whereas "Unintentional Tape Manipulations" pushes through its milder parts with progressively more complex and exciting layers.
The Elliott Smith comparison is largely based on Espinoza's strikingly similar vocals, somber attitude, and smooth melodies. Critics will probably dismiss this album as merely an imitation of Smith, but I still think it's beautiful. From the melancholy "Tell the Truth Parts 1 and 2" to the tense "Unintentional Tape Manipulations," Earlimart evokes concrete emotions that just cannot be mimicked.
8.5 / 10
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