Upbeat Number from Eels

Yep, you read that right. This new single from Eels, one of my favorite acts is definitely an upbeat number, though Mark’s voice still has that distinct churn. The guitar sound here seems to harken to a sunnier side of the songwriter’s catalog, and the added arrangements provide an extra bit of spirit. On the subject matter, it seems Everett is in a reflective mood, promising that “today is the day;” there’s no looking back anymore. Really looking forward to hearing the entirety of The Deconstruction; it drops on April 6th.

Light Folk from Amaroun

amarounWhen names like Eels and Sharon Van Etten get thrown into a presser, I’m going to pay attention. Amaroun does definitely have some similarities, particularly in the slight gruff quality that spreads from her voice, but the music here seems far more intimate. There’s power in this song from the get-go, but it spreads and blossoms once the backing accompaniment fills in some of the sparse moments, swelling with these intoxicating moments that make it hard to pull yourself away. This single is her debut, so look for more from her in the future.

ATX Spotlight: Benjamin Cissner Readying Album

12241698_907663649310191_6124699712053618704_nAttention Austin (and beyond)! Benajamin Cissner needs your help. He needs you to listen to his music. Well, he doesn’t need it necessarily, but you do! You really really do. All those of you in love with introspective singer-songwriters will not find anything better this year. Think of artists like sad Beck or Eels, but with a more poetic lyricist (at least in comparison to Beck). This song has a little bit of spirit to it, more upbeat than some of the other tracks you’ll hear on his debut Birds in the Night. This is just one of those albums that I feel comes across once in a lifetime, and it’s been created right here in Austin. Benjamin will be releasing his debut next Friday, March 4th, celebrating the beautiful vinyl release over at Barracuda. Stream the tune below. Press photo by Richard Casteel.

Advanced Base Charms

owenI was only partially in love with Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, the early project of Owen Ashworth, but I’m falling more in more in love with Advanced Base, his new work. He’s recently put up a new single for his latest album, which reminds me of the perfect land where the worlds of Pedro the Lion and Eels meet; I’m particularly fond of the lyrical approach he takes in his writing process. Instrumentation is careful and purposeful, with every note seemingly placed within the song’s structure for the perfect mood affecting emphasis. Look for Nephew in the Wild on August 21st via Orindal Records, and just enjoy the brilliance of this tune.

Eels – Wonderful, Glorious

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Rating: ★★★ · ·

It’s extremely hard for me to dismiss anything E puts down in the studio, even if I’m always a touch unsure of exactly where he’s going, musically. After his musical trilogy, Eels returns with his 10th studio album, Wonderful, Glorious.  The music by and large has a jittery, upbeat feel, though E’s lyrics remain forever self-deprecating and introspective.

Wonderful, Glorious immediately starts things off with an almost circus-pop appeal, using what sounds like a kazoo to break up the fuzzily affected track.  E reminds us that he’s been quiet for a bit, but that he aims to blow things up on “Bombs Away.”  It’s an interesting track, though it teeters on the verge of being a bit too long.  Honestly, by the time you get to the second track, “Kinda Fuzzy,” the album has already grown a bit weary.  The everything but the kitchen sink approach is just difficult to digest consistently, though there’s a beautiful moment that begins near the 1.22 mark, and quickly fades into the distance.  But, you’ve got to stick around to get to the goods; Eels always has the goods.

“On The Ropes” is the personal material that makes E a special songwriter.  Quietly he plays the guitar and opens up to the listener about his struggles, though he vows to continue the good fight in the future.  His voice is memorable, and his lyrics are wry; this is the Eels that I’ve come to enjoy since my obsession with End Times.  If you dig deeper into the album, you’ll find “True Original,” this time pulling at your heartstrings with a strained vocal performance.  The beauty in this track fully enters as light orchestration gently dances about the strummed guitar; you’re not going to find too many tracks of this vein that sound so perfect.

Wonderful, Glorious definitely lives by its own ebbs and flows.  The high points are some of the best writing E has done in recent years, yet the lows revolve around my personal indifference to his monkeying around in the studio; he’s most successful when he’s straightforward and sincere. “I Am Building a Shrine” is another such song that stands out in my mind for the slow introductory moment, pushed into bliss by added musical accompaniment, before returning to the solitude of percussion and vocals.  Looking back over the 10 years of Eels albums, and this might be in my top 5 favorite tracks.  Yep. Number 4.

I struggled with where to go with this album, mostly because I’ve taken a strong liking to the quieter, more personal Eels.  It’s definitely present on Wonderful, Glorious, but it took some time to get there.   If perhaps the sequencing would have been different, pulling that 5.25 opener and putting it somewhere else, I can see myself enjoying things a great deal more.  It weighed down the opening, but once you move beyond, you’ll find spectacular songs that remind you why E has been able to continue to reach an audience 10 albums into his career.

Show Preview: Eels @ Stubbs (7/20)

Date 7/20/11
Location Stubbs
Doors 7pm
Tickets $22 @ Frontgate

Anyone look for some solid live music on Wednesday night should head out to Stubbs in Austin for a show by Mark Oliver Everett and his crew known as Eels.  Opening support should also be above average and is provided by The Submarines.  If you aren’t checking out Wooden Birds, this is where you need to be.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/13-I-Like-the-Way-This-Is-Going.mp3]

Download: Eels – I Like the Way This Is Going [MP3]

Eels – Tomorrow Morning

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Man, just a few months back End Times, the brilliant record from Mark E. hit stores, and hit hearts.  If you were expecting more of the same from his latest work with Eels, titled Tomorrow Morning, well, you’re going to be disappointed.  This isn’t a stripped down acoustic affair, but fans of the band will definitely recognize his songwriting process on this go round.

Honestly, you can probably skip the opening track, “Im Gratitude for This Magnificent Day.”  It’s all ambient noise, but the one thing you can take is that it sets the stage for the play that will unfold before your ears.  It sets up “I’m a Hummingbird,” which relies on string arrangements in the background to accompany E’s voice.  Sparse instrumentation makes for an interesting listen, and while it’s easy to throw the Beck similarity in there, you sill have to love those scratchy vocals.

“Baby Loves Me” uses a little bit of oddball keyboard beats to kick the song off, and yet you’ll find that that provides a lot of energy to the song.  The chorus of “my baby loves me” with its gruff approach, gives you an odd hook with which to attach yourself to the song, but proper song construction isn’t as apparent here, as is the case with much of Tomorrow Morning.  But, “Spectacular Girl” uses the same structures, just in a more subdued manner, and in this instance, its far more successful than the previous track.  Light string touches give a little bit more depth to the electronic soundscapes, and Mark’s vocal performance here is one of the stronger appearances on the level, using some variance near the end.

Personally, “What I Have to Offer” is one of the stronger songs on the record, though that has a lot to do with its sonic tie-in to End Times. It’s more of a traditional song, and you’ll definitely find that it pulls on the heartstrings a bit.  Somehow, while it often seems phoned-in, there is a strong emotive quality to Everett’s voice that makes it so alluring when you’re listening.  Just listening to a song like “This is Where it Gets Good,” which is the album’s longest track sort of demonstrates that power.  You can almost remove the musical accompaniment all together and have solid vocals that can attract an array of listeners to his music.  And lyrically, he’s at his best again, a place somewhere between heartfelt emotion and tongue-in-cheek wordplay.

Oddly, a lot of this record doesn’t have the musical attraction that I placed on End Times, yet it still draws me in the more I listen to it.  E’s voice just has this other-worldly grace that blends melody and heartache, without ever seeming overly abrasive.  Tomorrow Morning just builds and builds, and it’s full of these light moments that are drenched in personal depth, for both listener and narrator.  At this point in the Eels career, I’m struggling to find anything wrong with what he’s doing, and I’m on the verge of becoming an obsessive fan. Join me.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/13-I-Like-the-Way-This-Is-Going.mp3]

Download: Eels – I Like the Way This Is Going [MP3]

New Music From EELS

Mark Everett just never seems to slow down with his frantic recording and release strategy in his group EELS.  The man has yet another album of new material coming out in August called Tomorrow Morning. A new upbeat tempo single from that LP “Looking Up” has been circulating around the internet as of late.  We’ve got it below.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/EELS-Looking-Up-from_TomorrowMorning-out_8.24.10.mp3]

Download: EELS – Looking Up [MP3]

Eels – End Times

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

It seems like not too long ago that we last heard from Eels, which is correct, as Hombre Loco came out in 2009, but we find E here on this album a far different man than where we encountered him.  End Times, as the cover art suggests, shows a worn man living in isolation; he’s a man broken by love, or at least we can assume it is he, as E’s always been honest with us in his writing.

When the album opens with “In My Younger Days” you find a stripped down Everett, naked in front of his listener.  He paints a picture of the difficulties he’s encountered overcoming loneliness in old age, something he found far easier in his “younger days.”  The sparse instrumentation here is one huge difference from Hombre Loco, as you barely find a percussive element in the songwriting, except for the full-on country rocker, “Gone Man,” which aside from the lyrics, is one of the weaker songs on the record.

It’s clear throughout that E is reminiscing with us, as if he’s casually telling the story of love lost; it’s a story many listeners will soon turn to in their time of loneliness and strife.  “In the Beginning” tells of the honeymoon phase, where problems seem trivial, as you’re consumed by the romance of it all.  Unfortunately, the gruff vocals force the inevitable upon you, pushing you to see that in End Times things have clearly changed.

During “A Line in the Dirt” you find a couple at their worst moment, both afraid to be alone, yet knowing that the end will bring nothing but that very feeling.  It’s clear that neither character wants to be without the other, though they can’t find a way to make it work.  The juxtaposition with this song and “End Times” is perfect, as the story line reaches its climactic pinnacle.  The album’s title track draws the story to a close, at least the break-up itself, and there is no going back from here.

Throughout the album, you find a narrator who is putting himself on display for his audience, revealing himself during his hardest times.  It’s reminiscent of Sea Changes by Beck, where the songwriter meets with disillusionment and solitude, unwilling to accept his fate.  Yet, as the album comes to a close, we find E “On His Feet.”  He seems to have succumbed to the fact that the cyclical aspect of relationships coming and going is something we all must go through at some time or another.  While he may not have been willing to give into it easily, it seems at the end of the record, he’s accepted his faults in the destruction of his relationship, and he’s ready to be back on his feet again; he’s ready “to be alright.”

It’s hard to adequately describe the music in his album, as it comes far behind the role of the lyrical value, which is possibly one of the few faults you’ll find on End Times. The story is one that we can all relate to, which is perhaps why this seems to be an ultimately more personable record than Hombre Loco.  Let it be known that regardless of where life finds him, E knows his way around writing heartfelt tunes, and this album is chock full of them.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/EELS-Little-Bird.mp3]

Download: Eels – Little Bird [MP3]

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