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Earlimart:: Hymn and Her (Album Review)

Earlimart took a casual approach to Mentor Tormentor, an intricate album whose creation spanned the course of three years. Songs were written at an unhurried pace while the group toured in support of its previous record, made the switch to a different record label, and pursued individual solo projects. So perhaps it’s strange that Earlimart’s follow-up, Hymn and Her, arrives just one year after Tormentor’s 2007 release. It’s the fastest turnaround of any Earlimart album, suggesting either a burst of inspiration or a slapdash, all-too-fast approach to songwriting. Fortunately, Hymn and Her features the same sun-baked slices of indie pop that made Mentor Tormentor and Treble & Tremble such appetizing fare. Bandmates Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray (now the group’s only two members) haven’t sacrificed quality for speed; they’ve simply shed their extra baggage, turning Earlimart from a multi-membered musical collective into a fast-working duo. As before, the new album places a big emphasis on sonic texture, but Espinoza also offers up some of his most straightforward pop melodies. Acoustic guitars chime over drum loops, keyboards bubble in the background, and harmonies thicken the melodies, yet Hymn and Her still sounds intimate, as if the bandmates have discovered how to funnel their densely populated songs into warm, mellow washes of sound. It’s ideal music for headphones, where the clever production can reveal all of its layers. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine a setting in which the relaxed chug of “Teeth” and “For the Birds” wouldn’t sound completely engaging.