Eels : End Times

On January 19th, the Eels will release their eighth studio album and second in about seven months. As the years have passed and Mark Oliver Everett has moved into his mid 40s, his understanding of human emotions and handling of societal conventions only becomes more and more honed. End Times is another excellent record.

I was fairly late to the Eels fan club. It was about 2000, four years past their first release, that I was introduced to the band. 2000's Daisies of the Galaxy was a favorite of that year but it wasn't until 2005's Blinking Lights and Other Revelations that the Eels jettisoned up my favorites list. I went back and poured over Everett's 1998 heartbreaking Electro-Shock Blues, an album that recounts aspects of his sister's suicide with almost jarring honesty.

Last year's Hombre Lobo was a fine album, and although it's still early (as I've exclaimed many-a-time, it often takes me months, if not years, to fully understand/appreciate a record), End Times may be be his most honest and moving work in a decade. That's not to say it's better than others; it's just immensely raw and real. "Little Bird" lays bare the loneliness of missing a lost or desired lover and feeling, well, friendless.

"Mansions of Los Feliz," my favorite song early on, looks deeply at dealing with a world that just doesn't seem to have a place for us all. "Well it's a pretty bad place outside this door, I could go out there but I don't see what for, and I'm happy living in the dark, on the edge of my mind, and it's nobody else's business," Everett confesses without a hint of hesitation or reservation. "End Times," may be referring to the apocalypse or perhaps just the emotions tied to loss. Whatever the case, once again, Everett leaves nothing behind. On "Apple Trees," Everett just speaks a story: "We were on this car trip and I was looking at these rows and rows of trees all along the highway, I don't know what kind of trees, apple or something, there were just like thousands and thousand of rows of a thousand trees each, and I picked one tree that I could see about eight trees back in this one row in the middle, just one in a billion, and that's how I felt." Corny at first perhaps, the image somehow lasts. "Nowadays" recalls Harvest Moon-era Neil Young.

Mark Oliver Everett is one of the most underappreciated artists in modern times. Not only is he an accomplished songwriter and musician, but his memoir Things the Grandchildren Should Know is a near masterpiece and his PBS documentary, Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives,, which recounts the life of his father, is a treasure.

End Times continues a long run of exceptional work. Having released two solid records in less than a year, we can only hope that the creative run continues.