Get ready to relax, rewind and introspect
Eels has finally released their 13th studio album Earth to Dora, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Reminiscent of The Beatles, Eels delivers an indie-rock album that wants to touch its audience at the core. Throughout the years, Eels has featured a number of different musicians in their albums to play the work of multi-instrumentalist Mark Oliver Everett, and the same is true on Earth to Dora. Not only does the album feature Everrett—most commonly referred to by his stage name “E”—but it includes The Chet (Jeff Lyster) on guitar, Koool G Murder (Kelly Logsdon) on the bass and P-Boo (Mike Sawitzke) on the drums. The group creates a somber yet intriguing tone in Earth to Dora, priming the listener for a night of melancholic introspection.
Together the group is unafraid to experiment—veering outside the lines of procedural musical craft and doing what feels best to them. For instance, a couple of the songs on the album don’t follow the typical formulaic rules most musicians employ when crafting their songs. “Anything For Boo” opens to a sound byte of a movie countdown before opening with the chorus. Similarly, in “Baby Let’s Make It Real,” The Chet kicks off a guitar solo right after the first chorus, something quite atypical in the music industry. These peculiar rearrangements work in favor of the band, electrifying and adding excitement to the classic indie-rock sound. Not only that, but the band also throws in different instruments from time to time, most notably with “Dark and Dramatic” featuring the mandolin. Though these are small touches that are slowly becoming more common in indie-rock, they’re definitely still appreciated and well implemented in Earth to Dora.
One of the most compelling features of the album is the relaxed, tranquil feeling it invites the listener to embrace. From start to finish, the listener is met with shakers and smooth, soft vocals set to a tight baseline and crisp guitar riffs. No one element is truly dominant, everything swirls together harmoniously like a coffee stirred with creamer. This serenity is a feeling that’s consistently preserved throughout the album, though it can certainly become boring at times. The Chet, Koool G Murder and P-Boo still provide an astonishing performance nonetheless, each infusing their own expertise into the album. From the consistently clean basslines to the use of symbols, Eels demonstrates a mastery of the classical elements that make a band great, particularly showcased in “The Gentle Souls.” Not to say they haven’t adapted to the status quo, as Earth to Dora showcases a riveting synthesized keyboard and bells, which were impressively incorporated in “I Got Hurt.” The band manages to mix synthesized keyboards, bells and soundbites with an authentically indie-rock essence, demonstrating the adaptable nature of Eels.
The Eels take a more elusive and poetic route when it comes to their lyrical craft rather than appealing to topical politicization for popularity. In an interview with John Lennon published on the Eels’ website, E explains that he’d rather be authentic than purposefully pivot to earn the favor of a crowd. Instead, many of the songs lyrically differ in subject, with no clear motif amongst the tracks in Earth to Dora. In “Who You Say You Are,” E remissly sings “for some time now/ been alright on my own/ given the options/ id rather be alone,” conveying a stubborn, cynical sense of independence. E elaborates in the aforementioned interview that the song was written when he had realized his songs no longer resonated with him, forcing him to confront the reality of his own identity. He also revealed a common lyrical thread present in the album, as many of the people referred to in the tracks are analogies or concepts rather than someone with an actual identity. Earth to Dora becomes a bit more mysterious—though tranquil—it harbors a secret sadness like the clown painted in the album’s artwork.
Overall, The Eels deliver a beautiful performance in Earth to Dora. The album features the perfect number of songs, though it could have benefited the band to stir up some more excitement on a track or two. Nonetheless, it’s clear the Eels are good at what they do, and fans should get ready to relax, rewind and reflect with Earth to Dora.