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CD Review: Eels

Tomorrow Morning (Vagrant/E Works)

It's harder to write a happy song than an unhappy one. That's the problem with the final album in Eels' trilogy about dissolution, heartbreak, and redemption. Misanthropic frontman Mark Oliver Everett, who's built his entire career around dispirited paeans, simply isn't equipped for the task. Most Eels albums focus on Everett's gruff and glum delivery over nimble arrangements blooming with understated elegance. While he makes effective use of typical self-deprecation on Tomorrow Morning, he can't quite nail a balanced mix of wry optimism and befuddled joy. Songs like "The Man," which imagines a neighborhood of Frank Capra extras offering high-fives, come off a little self-conscious and unconvincing. The arrangements, still within Everett's usual palette, are odder this time and peculiarly rhythmic, driven by weird synth flourishes and electronic beats. It's admirably out of character, but aside from a few moments, it never hits its stride. Parker

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