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Reviewed by Jason Thompson
Still, there are those bands that just seem destined for greatness – and much more – right out of the gate and Earlimart is one of them. Having struck it huge with both critics and fans alike with their previous Majordomo release, Mentor Tormentor, the group stripped itself down to just the original duo of Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray. Getting rid of the extra chaff seems to have inspired them, as Hymn and Her was recorded in a brisk four weeks and sounds exactly like the kind of bottle- up energy that’s ready to explode when great things come together.
“Song For” has a nervous amphetamine-fueled attitude pumping into its rhythm. All cool detachment and rich melodies snake between somber piano notes and strummed acoustic guitar as the four-square beats nail it all down perfectly – it’s a killer classic opening number that can’t be missed. Following up this stunner is “Face Down in the Right Town,” a downbeat groover with percussion that percolates out of the speakers, giving the weighty tune a feeling of airiness that belies its grave notions. Beautiful.
Murray takes the lead vocals for her own “Before it Gets Better,” one of those great songs that plays like the perfect soundtrack to a night of stargazing and shuffling around your old hometown. It’s bittersweet and wispy and wonderful. Ditto the quaintly majestic “God Loves You the Best,” which sounds like dressed-up Yo La Tengo. Perfectly and immediately likable.
Then there’s the hymn-like “Great Heron Gates,” which is almost unnervingly peaceful. Seriously, how did these two do such wonders in a scant four weeks? This seems like the kind of stuff that would come together over a couple years or so, and you’d be lucky to capture its magic on tape as it was at its most perfect. Indeed, “Teeth” is Earlimart’s own brand of mannered gospel music, set to the sky with an anything-is-possible promise.
Murray takes the reins again for “Time for Yourself,” one of those songs that just sounds completely perfect in every way. Ariana’s not just another singer with a cute voice – hearing her songs, you can feel her own character and personality running through each and every note. Blissful, to say the least. And that’s all before the killer title track, which seems to incorporate a bit from Elvis Presley’s version of “Blue Moon.” And if it wasn’t lifted from that record, it’s a perfect emulation, and it’s just as wonderfully creepy.
It would be easy to peg Earlimart as some sort of crazy space-rock savants, but there’s more to it than that. It’s almost as if these two have captured the essence of everything that is pure and magical in the world and have communicated it perfectly through these songs. It’s all very beautiful and sad, yet full of hope and smiles, and that’s exactly the sort of thing that needs to be heard lately. There’s no pretense here. These guys are amazing through and through, and Hymn and Her is one of the best albums of 2008, period.