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Mentor Tormentor (Majordomo)

Earlimart has long been associated with the disbanded Grandaddy and the late Elliott Smith, two like-minded peddlers of melancholy indie rock who were also friends of the band. Aaron Espinoza's Earlimart is the last one standing now. After years of churning out shimmering, brooding pop, the L.A.-based act tests new waters with Mentor Tormentor.

Though Espinoza's trademark hushed vocals and flickering piano lines are still present, the spectrum of his songwriting has opened up into a lushly arranged wall of somber sound. Several tracks would certainly feel right at home on earlier releases, like the straight-ahead, mid-tempo rocker "Nevermind the Phonecalls." But the album's opening opus, "Fakey Fake," showcases Earlimart's growth. A descending acoustic guitar line provides the bed under Espinoza's delay-soaked whisper, before pounding drums seem to decay and the song teeters toward implosion. This inspired trajectory continues with bass player Ariana Murray's turn at the microphone on "Happy Alone," a Wilco-esque romp powered by tinkling ivories, and the delicately punkish "Everybody Knows Everybody." Earlimart's simultaneously dreary and euphonious new vision builds upon its time-tested, stripped-down chamber pop, a feat that its associates would certainly smile upon.


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