E Works/PIAS Recordings
Earth to Dora
When American indie rockers Eels release a new record, you can bet it’s going to be some denomination of a good time. Though the tides of indie have shifted significantly since their well-tempered 1996 debut album Beautiful Freak was released, their brand of carefree rock remains palatable and charming. Their newest release, the pre-COVID-written Earth to Dora, continues that trend with steadfast yet imperfect confidence.
As a whole, Earth to Dora is a pleasantly chummy and authentic record that blends everyman lyrics with bog- standard song structures. It’s rarely surprising or bold, but it doesn’t need to be.
On “Are We Alright Again,” frontman Mark Oliver Everett (known mononymously as “E”) spearheads poppy and jovial verses while the lazy and squeaky-clean tones of the proceeding track, “Who You Say You Are,” are nothing short of entrancing. The lead track, “Anything for Boo,” is an unintentionally suitable song for late-October; it’s jolly, airy, and childishly spooky.
As the record progresses, E becomes increasingly comfortable, offering amusingly simplistic tales of unadorned love set to bubblegum chord progressions (“Earth to Dora”). Later, the tracks become more instrumentally complex, with the galactic piano and sublime strings of the endearingly cheesy “Dark and Dramatic” pairing nicely with the needlessly happy prancing of “The Gentle Souls”.
Occasionally, the band slips into dreamy fragility, waltzing through lovely tape loops on “Of Unsent Letters” and floating above a rich organ on “I Got Hurt”. On the latter of those two tracks, E opines, in the simplest way imaginable, that on some level, his misfortune is his own fault (Despite all my common sense / How could I be so
These more demonstrative songs, which are sparsely placed throughout the record’s 43-minute runtime, give E’s prose immense variance, allowing him to go from playful frivolity to melancholic heartbreak without skipping a beat.
Still, the album’s lyrics sometimes fall short, creating cringy choruses that are better left disregarded. On “Baby Let’s Make It Real“, for instance, the chorus is indecipherably deadpan, cutting up an otherwise excellent song. Even if the track’s lyrics (Baby you’re a full meal / The way you make me feel) are intended to be ironic, it borders on ridiculous. Elsewhere, E’s cheap Johnny Cash-style twang on “OK“ seems more misplaced pastiche than emulation.
Though it might have its rough patches, Earth to Dora is nevertheless a worthwhile listen for fans of safely down- to-earth indie with a cynical slant. It’s unlikely to blow anyone away, but, in a record of this size and scope, that’s more than acceptable.