Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we deliver songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Mansions of Los Feliz” by EELS from the 2010 album End Times (out yesterday!) on Vagrant Records.
Gosh, it seems like just the other day that I was tippy-typing out words about Mr. Mark Oliver Everett – also known as E... aka EELS. Indeed it was just a mere six months ago that Everett dropped the wildly successful LP Hombre Lobo to countless four-star reviews and critics-choice lists, not to mention appearances on Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Showing up on the back-end of a million-month (okay, 48-month) gap in recording, Hombre Lobo was accompanied by the near-simultaneous publication of Everett’s first book (the autobiographical Things the Grandchildren Should Know) as well as the completion of a BBC/PBS produced documentary about his quantum physicist father titled Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives.
It makes sense then given the finalization of these monstrous side-projects that E would release this latest volume of heart-wrenching blues-fueled pop so hot on the heels of his previous effort. It would make even more sense, given the dissolution of his marriage, that the aptly titled End Times finds E cutting loose the werewolf character from “Dog Faced Boy,” making an unflinchingly beautiful return to the shirt-sleeve self-examination of his finest works.
I’m pretty sure that when I wrote about EELS last year, I said (or at least hinted) that Everett’s most brilliant work, 1998’s Electro-Shock Blues, would never be matched. While End Times doesn’t quite reach that watermark, the compositions contained here are amongst the strongest Everett has ever penned. The honesty is once again palpable. This is immediately evident in “The Mansions of Los Feliz,” a lean acoustic affair that showcases E’s talent as a crafter of catch. Like most of his best work this one is fueled by a 60’s-era mix of country twang and pop structure. Never allowing itself to get too grim “Mansions” pulls the reigns on desperation and loneliness with a melodic chorus that could cheer up Morrissey.
“Little Bird” is stunning in its simplicity: this is the same starkly strummed Danelectro from Electro-Shock Blues and is by my estimation the masterpiece of this new offering. When E sings “Goddamn, I miss that girl,” watch out because you are going to very clearly recall that uniquely pointed mix of anxiety, regret and emotional ADD that came along with missing the only one that ever mattered.
Like Electro-Shock Blues, the new album may on the surface seem a smidge depressing (this guy has been through a lot) but most fans of EELS will continue to connect to the morsels of hope hiding beneath Everett’s continued catharsis. After all, it is not until life really starts to shit on you does one recognize the simplicity of happiness. Once again, E saves us the trouble.
There are no current plans for EELS to tour. In fact, for Hombre Lobo, E said that he just wasn’t “into” touring, and as of yet his opinion doesn’t seem to be changing. But if it does, you can be sure to find updates on the band’s MySpace page. For now, here’s the video for End Time‘s “In My Younger Days”: