eels – Tomorrow Morning

E Works Records

Despite its undercurrent of optimism Tomorrow Morning is very much an eels album. Songwriter Mark Everett a.k.a. E is still offering up the same stew of hip hop beats chintzy synths and minor key melodies that he debuted on Beautiful Freak and perfected on its harrowing followup Electro-Shock Blues . In fact the only song on the album that doesn’t instantly sound like eels is also its weakest — the gospel-soaked “Looking Up” is definitive proof that “new” and “improved” don’t always go hand in hand.

Even though it often feels like Everett is plugging a long-standing formula Tomorrow Morning’s positivity stands out in a catalogue that can get downright maudlin. It’s easily the most upbeat thing he’s done since 2000’s Daisies of the Galaxy which means it’s more focused on pop pleasures than self-pity even if the difference between a joyful Everett and a depressed one is pretty slim at times.

Nine albums in Everett’s lack of interest in musical progression is a mixed blessing. His ambition is still unchecked — Tomorrow Morning is the third album in a trilogy released over the past year-and-a-half — but longtime fans looking for a new schtick may be put off. On the other hand he knows his strengths and Tomorrow Morning has more subtle sophistication than the singer has shown in ages. Maybe sticking to a niche isn’t such a bad approach.