Tomorrow Morning completes a trilogy of albums by Eels, each released six months apart, that explore the emotional roller coaster that is life, the universe and everything (but mostly intimate personal relationships and love).
Hombre Lobo delved into our species’ raw emotions with raw energy and soothingly calm introspection. End Times examined despair from failed relationships and an uncertain future with a starker, more desolate tone. Tomorrow Morning sees Mark Oliver Everett (aka E, aka Eels) decorating his discriminating compositions with an electronic wallpaper that sparkles and shines with a brighter, more optimistic outlook on life, thanks to new found love.
But while we should all be glad that E has found happiness, it’s sometimes hard to push past the (at times) seriously sappy lyrics and focus on the music. Fortunately for us though, Eels are the focused ones here and have proven once again their acumen for crafting quirkily moody pop songs that are impossible not to like.
Eels haven’t pushed their creative envelope into unfamiliar or unexplored musical territory here, but they have certainly injected a playfulness that hasn’t been heard on their records for some time, and it goes a long way in carrying the tunes on Tomorrow Morning. Of course the slinky bass lines, frisky drum loops and electronic, orchestral flourishes help too. And unlike End Times, whose darkly sad lyrics brought down the somewhat musically bland tracks even further, the tracks here are filled with sunny lyrics as joyous as a jelly donut that at least give the few weaker tunes something to smile about.
Opening track “In Gratitude For This Magnificent Day” sets the new tone immediately. It’s a short, whistling, electronic instrumental track that gives way to the cleansing lyrics of “I’m a Hummingbird” that employs an electronic orchestral arrangement as beautiful as a bouquet of flowers thanks to the Tomorrow Morning Orchestra. The trend continues with a slow organ dirge and singer/songwriter feel of “The Morning” before the record gets a much needed jolt from the album’s best track “Baby Loves Me”, whose playful lyrics poke fun at E’s new found feelings over a bouncy melody bolstered by Eel’s signature emotive, alt-rock punch. Emotionally, the rest of the album maintains an even keel with E’s raspy voice reveling in the simple pleasures of life on earth, while musically it teeters between the more stripped down singer/songwriter tracks and the jocular, full-sounding indie-rock ditties. But all of them have an experimental twist with electric swirls, bells and whistles floating around that help establish mood, be it slight melancholia, whimsical delight or outright glee.
Eels have always shied away from the mainstream, and following their self-indulgent tendencies have allowed them to hone their unique music into an enticing hybrid style. But lately they have veered slightly off course, seemingly mired in self pity to a less than stellar and floundering soundtrack. But with Tomorrow Morning, Eels sound more electric with a renewed energy that captures some of the excellent indie-rock of years past that set the bar so high in the first place.