EARLIMART -- MENTOR TORMENTOR
On Earlimart's last album, 2004's Treble & Tremble
, Aaron Espinoza and his rotating band of alt-gypsies (including constant bassist Adriana Murray) mollified the frantic strains of their previous Pixies worship, tapped into their inner Nick Drake and produced a quiet gem that shivered with a whispered passion.
During the tumultuous three years that followed, Espinoza endured band defections, an ongoing IRS audit, the loss of his label deal and a withering bout of writer's block. He and Murray have emerged from the rubble with Mentor Tormentor
, a subtle yet powerful jewel in the Earlimart crown. Mentor Tormentor
begins with the reflective lull of "Fakey Fake," giving every indication that the album will follow Treble & Tremble
's calm blueprint before breaking into a compelling and energetic conclusion. "Answers and Questions" works a similar corner, with Espinoza's hushed vocals appointing a Prog-like foundation and a wash of textural Mellotron that suggests Joe Pernice is supplanting his Smiths fixation with a Radiohead altar. "700>100" and "Everybody Knows Everybody" pulse with an Indie Pop sheen reminiscent of Fountains of Wayne, while "Don't Think About Me" evokes a mellow Bacharach mood. One of the many bright spots is Murray's lead vocal debut on "Nevermind the Phone Calls," where the bassist takes her own song for a baroque Beatles/Aimee Mann spin. Mentor Tormentor
is a fascinating pastiche of styles, exhibiting all of the frenetic and contemplative gifts that have defined Earlimart to this point, synthesized into a diverse but creatively threaded whole. (Brian Baker) Grade: B+