Much has been made about the fact that Treble & Tremble, Earlimart's latest album, was influenced by the death of the band's friend Elliott Smith. But you don't need to be enamored of Smith's moody melancholy to appreciate the growth of this band from Grandaddy wanna-bes into formidable, thoughtful craftsmen. Front man Aaron Espinoza may still peek at Neil Young's playbook -- forlorn acoustic ballads, dissonant amplified rock -- but Treble & Tremble is his most gorgeous mope yet. Espinoza sings for his departed comrade, although he frames the ache in common codes of abandonment and regret. Whether you've just been dumped, lost a grandparent, or been despairing over Iraq, Earlimart's orchestrated turmoil will nail your blue mood. Perhaps that's why the new record's back story means very little. Espinoza and his crew have always grasped that great melodies can articulate all our sad longings, allowing us to share in the reassuring comfort of a good cry.


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