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Music Reviews

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Mentor Tormentor

Rating: 8/10 ?

September 13, 2007
After looking over a collection of shots from Autumn de Wilde's forthcoming book, Elliot Smith, I was once again reminded of what we truly lost with the parting of the aforesaid songwriter. It was no surprise that the same thing happened to me while listening to Earlimart's latest release Mentor Tormentor.

"Fakey Fake," the opening track, is Elliot Smith from the thrift store shirt all the way down to the cuffed jeans. It begins as a subdued march and continues to build without really going anywhere, all owing to layered vocals, eddying guitars, and heart-pounding percussion. Aaron Espinoza delivers something akin to a truncated, anti-anthemic "Bottle Up And Explode" (off Smith's XO), and his unsympathetic delivery seems to suggest his awareness of that missing spot in the California scene.

Nobody needs to remind Espinoza and fellow songwriter Ariana Murray of the Smith's impact on the band; they were there to witness it. Accordingly, the themes featured in the band's fifth album have been tried and tested, but they work here. Mentor Tormentor features a song about the advantages of coming down ("Nevermind The Phonecalls") immediately preceding one about whether happiness is better achieved alone ("Happy Alone"). Murray and Espinoza (with respect to those tracks) deliver their vocals with an integrity that is equally innocent and conscientious.

Mentor Tormentor is by no means derivative. It features finely assembled baroque pop, as one might expect, but it also takes that fine tuning in other directions. The other worldly orchestration of "Gonna Break Into Your Heart" is reminiscent of Sophtware Slump-era Grandaddy, the difference being the candy-coated vocals typified by Joe Pernice. "Just Because" foregrounds sharp, abbreviated guitar riffs a la Wilco while maintaining their trademark hushed sadcore eloquence. The band's restrained approach is only deterred with the rocking "Everybody Knows Everybody," but one gets the sense that, with fifteen tracks, Earlimart care little about constructing a unified body of work.

While it might be underappreciated, Earlimart's remembrance of things past does not go unnoticed. Mentor Tormentor is an inviting listen; it is, among other things, an advanced course in baroque pop and a warm reminder of the thriving music scene in and around their renowned namesake town.

Reviewed by Patrick Gill
In in a state of suspended adolescence, Patrick Gill can be found hiding away in northwest Ohio, where he spends most of his time rediscovering shoegaze, noise pop, britpop, slowcore, sadcore, lo-fi, neo-psychedelia, post-rock, trad rock, and trip-hop music. In his spare time he teaches college English.

See other reviews by Patrick Gill



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