Tomorrow Morning

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Just when you thought it couldn't get any darker for Mark Oliver Everett (aka E) doesn't. On the third Eels album in 14 months, Everett completes a trilogy that began with the rockist Hombre Lobo in June of 2009, which addressed the ravenous hunger and cost of desire. In January 2010, End Times detailed in a low-key and acoustic manner, often in sometimes embarrassingly intimate terms, the shattering toll of a broken relationship. Tomorrow Morning emerges on the other side of both. This 14-song collection meditates on E's own eccentric brand of optimism. The tunes carry his requisite catchy melodies, hooks, and compelling arrangements, but the textures are different from anything he's released before because most of it is electronic and programmed (though his guitar, Koool G Murder's bass and keys, and Knuckles' drums are present, too). One need go no further than "I'm A Hummingbird" for evidence. A synth with programmed strings and winds play counterpoint melodies and harmonics. The song, full of extended metaphors from the natural world as they relate to the protagonist's emotional state and letting go of the past, is, quite simply, beautiful. By contrast, "Baby Loves Me" is a punky electro number. Slamming beats, criss-crossing synths, and programmed ambiences collide with electric guitars, drum machines, a live kit, distorted vocals, and hilarious lyrics: "Record company hates me/The doctor says I'm sick/The bad girls think I'm too nice/The nice girls call me 'dick'/But baby loves me/And she's smarter than you/Baby loves me/Unlikely but true." "This Is Where It Gets Good" borrows its big, bad beats from Peter Gabriel's programming fakebook, though the lyrics and orchestral arrangements are pure Everett in terms of quirk and humor. There are quiet and gentle moments, too, such as the lilting "This Is What I Have to Offer" and "That's Not Her Way" (which could stand in for Bob Dylan's "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" in the 21st century). The downright jaunty electric and bass-guitar hook in "I LIke the Way This Is Going" is one of the simplest and most attractive of all E's melodies. While some of this album feels a bit rushed at times, as a whole Tomorrow Morning is a welcome contrast to the darkness of its predecessors, and a deft summertime pop record. Lord knows, a little optimism in these strange times is welcome -- even if it comes from an unlikely source.

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