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August 16, 2007|Kevin Bronson

Earlimart gets back to business

Earlimart frontman Aaron Espinoza flinches a bit when you ask about "Mentor Tormentor," the title of the band's fifth album, as if you were going to slap his hand with a ruler for the rhyme and wordplay.

"It refers to a multitude of specific things -- the band, the music, the decision to even be an artist," he says. "To how I can feel completely fortunate that we've done as well as we have, and yet there are days where I think it's the worst thing that's happened to me."

Characteristically, the songs on Earlimart's long-awaited collection deftly avoid those extremes. Emotions are seldom bold or stark; instead, like the orchestral nuances that emerged in recording sessions with bandmates Ariana Murray and Joel Graves at the Ship studio in Eagle Rock, they are like colors that run together in the wash. The album's tuneful sheen harbors complexities that beg to be considered.

There has been, however, some palpable "torment." After 2004's well-regarded "Treble & Tremble," Earlimart split with label Palm Pictures, engaged in courtship rituals with other imprints, came up empty and endured financial hardship.

"The business side was very hard on us," Espinoza says. "At one point I thought we could make an album, walk into any label and just throw it on their desk. I guess my ego got in the way, and with the climate the way it is and everybody timid with their pocketbooks. . . . At one point, I thought this might be one of those classic stories -- a great album that never came out."

"Mentor" is set for release Tuesday on Majordomo, the band's own imprint formed in conjunction with Shout! Factory. Earlimart plays album-release shows Friday at the Santa Monica Women's Club and Tuesday at the Jensen Rec Center.

Wait ends for Foreign Born

How happy will L.A. quartet Foreign Born be on Tuesday, when its long-awaited debut "On the Wing Now" is released?

"You have no idea," singer-guitarist Matt Popieluch says.

Yes, Popieluch and band mates Lewis Pesacov, Garrett Ray and Ariel Rechtshaid constitute another L.A. group that has found little but frustration on the business side of making music (see previous item). Foreign Born emerged in 2004, released the promising "In the Remote Woods" EP in 2005 and recorded its album that winter. The quartet pressed some copies itself, toured and waited.

"Everything on the business side was very elusive," Popieluch says. "Every prolific musician wants to keep current with himself, keep a rhythm going. . . . The industry is a distraction, it's a pain, it's a necessary evil, but the creative process happens whether you like it or not."

Now, after months of "being broke the whole time," Popieluch says -- not to mention having written the next album -- Foreign Born emerges on the roster of Steve Aoki's ascendant Dim Mak label, perhaps as the imprint's smartest release.

"On the Wing Now" reveals the band's feel for anthemic '80s rock shaded by complex arrangements and cathartic moments that make the likes of Modest Mouse or Arcade Fire so appealing.

Foreign Born plays Tuesday at the Echo supported by the women's choir Nevenka, which specializes in Eastern European folk music (and will back the band on "Union Hall").

Fast forward

Hard rockers Poets & Pornstars celebrate the release of their self-titled album Monday at the Roxy. . . . And Cary Brothers returns for a Wednesday show at the Troubadour.

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