Eels: Tomorrow Morning (E Works/Vagrant)

E, the singer/songwriter of Eels, used to be a man of mystery with an impossibly sad backstory who funneled his maladroit feelings into biting pop songs.

Now, in the past two years, E has dropped the veil, releasing three on-the-nose albums that should be dubbed the "Midlife Crisis Trilogy."

Ditching the mystery in favor of soul-cleansing, Hombre Lobo began the set as a feral breakdown, while End Times was a relentlessly bleak insight into divorce. Tomorrow Morning, naturally, is the recovery record, but its patchwork construction and elementary lyrics suggest E is forcing the point. Nevertheless, the album should satisfy those who enjoy E's spiky pop songs and/or the faux-swagger of his melancholy rock.

It will also push the limits of those who merely tolerate E's electronic indulgences. The stuttering beats of "This Is Where It Gets Good" nicely accent E's droll delivery, but the song's nearly three-minute denouement, tirelessly weaving strings and electronics together, sounds masturbatory. Meanwhile, the chiming, sparkly synthesizer opener, "In Gratitude for This Magnificent Day," plays like an excuse for an operatic gesture.

Eels is best when E works within the confines of lo-fi pop. The world-weary funk of "Spectacular Girl," nerdy snap of "Baby Loves Me" and waltzing bombast of "Oh So Lovely" show E in top form.

The album's final two tracks help define the album's offsetting aesthetics: "I Like the Way This Is Going," an understated, charming folk shuffle, is overwhelmed by "Mystery of Life," a seasick tune whose funk is undone by a saccharine choir.

Tomorrow Morning should sate serious fans.


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