For Earlimart's fifth album, Mentor Tormentor, a worthy follow-up to 2004's breakthrough Treble & Tremble, the Los Angeles group has been pared down to the core duo of Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray (as well as sundry sidemen).
Although Espinoza's breathy tenor still conjures Elliott Smith, Earlimart's latest wavers between the atmospheric glimmer of Treble and string-fueled baroque pop à la the Left Banke. While the group's folkie tendencies are still present, they're nestled inside elegant yet earthy arrangements. What's more, Murray steps up with her vocal harmonies. She even offers her first composition, the wonderful "Happy Alone." It's piano pop reminiscent of early Rilo Kiley.
Mentor is front-loaded with four terrific tracks. In addition to "Happy Alone," there's the folk-drone "Fakey Fake," the quasi-dream pop of "Answers and Questions," and a power-pop ditty titled "Nevermind the Phonecalls." The rest of the album can't keep pace, but with those four songs, Earlimart competes with the Shins in terms of mining textural pop.