That shaky sound

EarlimartTreble and TremblePalm Pictures

Four out of five stars

Morphing from Pixies-inspired post-punks to mellow-hearted indie rockers may seem like a tragedy in the making, but in the case of Earlimart, the transformation couldn’t have been more perfect.

Treble & Tremble, the band’s latest lament, finds Earlimart mastermind Aaron Espinoza not only charting new territories of serene melody, but also valleys of emotional catharsis in which Espinoza found himself after the recent loss of friend and sonic consort, Elliott Smith.

Properly burying Smith’s undeniable influence beneath rich layers of lo-fi acoustics and somber piano swells, Espinoza births a prodigy in the wake of a tragic legend.

Reaching deep into the pockets of indie rock’s lo-fidelity jeans, the piano-string duet “Hold On, Slow Down” introduces the world to Treble & Tremble’s melodic, emotional sincerity. Espinoza’s crooning at times is explicitly directed at Smith and his lasting influence: “I miss you my friend/ Will I see your face again?/ And will you be smiling then?”

Such heartfelt ponderings set to a backdrop of atmospheric strings and so-simple-it’s-simply-perfect piano work make it clear that Treble & Tremble is more than the average, blandie-folk etude. The distorted guitar work of “Sounds” hearkens back to the band’s humble origins, but quickly fades into an ethereal soundscape of acoustic tendencies and pallid pianos.

Earlimart’s acoustic palate is complimented by drifting piano drones and a delayed guitar aura, typified by the future high school classic “All They Ever Do is Talk,” an epic hell bent on maintaining its honest humility.

The mechanically melodic “Unintentional Tape Manipulations” steps out of line with its, well, seemingly unintentional tape manipulations, and takes up rank with experimental indie compatriots Grandaddy. Too good to be coincidence, Grandaddy’s Jim Fairchild assumes Treble & Tremble’s production credit alongside Espinoza and while it shows, it does not overpower Treble’s sonic purity.

Elliott Smith’s lasting spirit and Grandaddy’s illuminating insight shine bright in Treble & Tremble’s glossy sheen. But instead of distracting attention away from Earlimart’s latest offering, these characteristics help breath life into Espinoza’s glorious vision. Treble & Tremble is not simply a dedication to a fallen great, but the embodiment of his legacy in rock’s future.

Dan Fletcher