The stretch between System Preferences and Earlimart's previous album, Hymn and Her, was the longest gap between the band's releases, but in that time Aaron Espinoza remained busy in the studio, producing records for Ben Gibbard, the Henry Clay People, and Port O'Brien. Also, a collaboration with Grandaddy's Jason Lytle for Admiral Radley's I Heart California in 2010 played a big part in shaping the band's new direction. Even more so than before, comparisons with Grandaddy are unshakable on System Preferences, and as the techie Sophtware Slump-ish title suggests, electronic atmospherics are incorporated with Earlimart's usual dreamy, lovelorn sound. Still writing as a two-piece, Ariana Murray takes the wheel on a few titles. Her songs "Get Used to the Sound" and "10 Years" are generally closer to the dream pop variety, sweetly sung, and floating in echo. When her male counterpart takes the lead role, aside from the aforementioned spacy flourishes, songs like "Crestline, Ca.," "I'm a Safe Inside," and "A Goodbye" are dead ringers for Elliott Smith numbers, with similar Beatles-inspired chord progressions played in an intimate drum, bass, guitar, and piano setup. "Internet Summer" picks up the pace, as if to remind listeners that the group is still capable of brisk guitar pop, but the bulk of the album is elegant and bittersweet -- in fact, so low-key that it would be an easy album to overlook, which would be a shame since the songwriting caliber is at a career high. Instead of sounding labored and forced, System Preferences is gentle and effortless, as if it were recorded four months after Hymn and Her, instead of four years.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Jason Lymangrover