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Poppy, Haunting Acoustic Sets in Brooklyn

The crowd filled the bleachers at Northsix for the moody, no-frills rock of Earlimart, who debuted brand new songs they’d only played together two times prior. The Los Angeles-based band delivered alternately haunting and poppy songs, whose lyrics oft-lamented failed romance, and melancholy piano chords that launched semi-furious guitar melodies. It felt like watching a friend’s band perform in the garage, so much so that a few people sat down in front of the stage to get a closer, comfortable view. Earlimart’s new record, to be released early next spring, features more songwriting and production input from bassist Ariana Murray and is what singer Aaron Espinoza called their biggest collaborative effort yet. Espinoza also acknowledged that being back in New York reminded him of the late Elliott Smith, his good friend with whom Earlimart played frequently. “It sounds kind of sappy,” Espinoza admitted to the audience, “but he’s here, and I’m glad you guys are too.”

In his almost impossibly high-pitched voice, the incomparable Death Vessel (singer/songwriter Joel Thibodeau) sang airy, old-time songs with an expression more transcendent than pained. His fingers skipped over the acoustic guitar strings and gave way to the kind of playful chords that would make any Middle-America road trip pass by pleasantly. His usual revolving cast of supporting band members wasn’t present last night (“It’s logistically more effective to play solo,” Thibodeau declared), but the singer snapped his fingers to keep himself in time when he sang a cappella.

Becky Stark, Lavender Diamond’s opera-trained singer, issued a message of peace and extended audible open arms to listeners during her dream-folk band’s opening acoustic set. With innocent, syrupy-sweet vocals fronting a slow guitar and muted drums, Stark resonated with intent listeners, who reacted with gratuitous applause and lighthearted laughter as she told stories from the road between songs. EMILY YOUSSEF / PHOTOS BY ERIC NOWELS

>> Listen to Earlimart on Napster
>> Listen to Death Vessel on Napster