Earlimart: The Avenues E.P.

David Antrobus


The Avenues E.P.

Label: Palm Pictures
US Release Date: 2003-01-21
UK Release Date: Available as import

There are countless examples of decent noisy indie-rock out there, vying for our attention, ravenous consumers that we are. But how about noisy indie-rock alongside gorgeous experimental melodic pop? And, with what can only be described as contrarian panache, all of the above delivered in a fleet 12-minute impressionistic blur that leaves us with hunger pangs for more of the same, in spite of our jaded taste buds.

Earlimart's The Avenues EP is merely a precursor for the soon-to-be-released (22 April 2003) full-length Everyone Down Here. But what a taster it is. In a world of filler and bulk, in which everything hangs on the units shifted regardless of their value, the restraint shown by offering such a delicately brief appetizer is beyond admirable; it's downright courageous.

One Aaron Espinoza is the heart, soul, and brains behind Earlimart, providing musicianship (voice, guitars), songwriting, and technical expertise (production, engineering) for this project (named after a local Southern California town). Ariana Murray (bass, keys) and Davey Latter (drums) round out the remaining contributions. Yes, So Cal. It's no accident that that oddly Southwestern juxtaposition of overloaded urban dissociation and creepily arid rural distrust stamps itself all over The Avenues EP.

The five-song EP, coming in at little over 12 minutes, is maddeningly brief, and yet the terrain covered in that time is astonishing. "Color Bars" opens with staticky deep-sea sonar-like sounds, over which mournful strings and subtle piano figures gradually assert themselves, amid increasingly confident and urgent beats. Even the further layering of bold acoustic strumming and understated vocals ("We'll be happy if they hate us / Our friends will be outside / . . . We'll be happy if we can") avoids cluttering this remarkably affecting song through deft work at the mixing desk, achieving that perfect balance of genuine melancholia and memorable melodicism.

"Susan's Husband's Gunshop" somehow rises full-fledged from the contemplative ashes of the opener, delivering a pristinely poised example of that noisy indie-rock mentioned earlier, all fuzz-drenched guitar and swirling psychedelic organ. It could have been jarring, but it isn't, perhaps because of the warm layered vocal tracks that seem to gradually urge spirit over conceit. Similarly, this overt rocker merges seamlessly into another acoustic strummer (the excellent "Interloper"), toying with indie cliché yet ultimately transcending it through a unique ménage a trois of vaguely distorted vocals, wistful swinging rhythm and a pretty yet oddly pitiful piano figure.

Following this, an untitled instrumental lopes forward like a wounded stranger in a dusty town square, an inexplicably chilling single-note church bell dogging its path, until birdsong drowns everything out like small town indifference and the enveloping threat of secrecy. The folk-amiable "Parking Lots" rounds out the EP inoffensively, vaguely bittersweet like Elliott Smith frolicking with Doves.

Throughout, there are nuanced electronic tweaks, creaks, howls, and doodles that clearly enhance the overall texture without calling attention to themselves, or more specifically, to their contemporaneity.

CD sales are down, right? Perhaps because of file sharing. More likely because people simply can't justify forking out the cost of a full-length album when they can guarantee that more than half of it (if they're lucky) will be substandard, pretty much whomever releases it. Well, it appears Earlimart have just discovered the surprisingly simple antidote to all that: short, exquisite, indelibly sublime sonic collages, running infuriatingly short, yet resonating insatiably long.

Of course, the pressure's now on for their upcoming full-length. Fingers crossed that these particular avenues don't prove to be blind alleys.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.