Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Music of 2010: Part 7

1. Eels - End Times
2010 was a very good year for me. It was an extremely busy year—a wedding and home purchase will do that—but an excellent one nonetheless. Still, I was able to post to the blog a personal record number of times, even reaching the century mark with yesterday's entry.

Also, despite it being such a good year, my album of the year isn't a happy one. From what I understand, this was a very personal record for Eels' frontman Mark Oliver Everett (aka "E"), so much so that apparently he refused to be interviewed regarding its subject matter. He did, however, admit that “This will be some people’s favorite Eels album and some people’s least favorite." Obviously, I fall into the former category, although I was a fan of their breakthrough single, 1996's "Novocaine for the Soul."

End Times is a classic breakup album, covering the territory of all the thoughts that go through a man's head as he experiences lost love. These reflections start with reminiscing about when everything was right, as Everett sings, "Wasn't no one in the world, wasn't nothing else, just me and my girl," on album opener "The Beginning."

The subject matter rapidly shifts, though. "A Line in the Dirt"—which shares my song of the year honors with Wolf Parade's "What Did My Lover Say?" and Cloud Cult's "Running With the Wolves"—begins with the humorous admission, "She locked herself in the bathroom again, so I am pissing in the yard." However, it quickly progresses to the ill-fated ultimatum in the song's chorus: "I drew a line into the dirt, and dared her to step right across it, and she did."

Eventually, desperation yields to determination, although somewhat meekly. The album's penultimate track, "Little Bird," is a conversation between E and a bird visiting him on his porch, in which he reluctantly admits, "Little bird, I guess you're right. I can't let it take me out without a fight." By referring to his nemesis as "it," rather than "her," it appears he's coming to terms with the process of moving on.

Finally, on the album's closing track, "On My Feet," he prepares himself for that realization. Although his thoughts do wander back to how much he misses that girl—"But one thing I know that is true in this world is the love that I felt for you"—ultimately he knows that "One sweet day I'll be back on my feet, and I'll be alright."

I've written several times before that I've begun to wonder what my relationship with sad music would be, now that I'm in a satisfying romantic relationship of my own. I think End Times confirms that I can still appreciate this type of music, particularly because I can relate to the subject matter without letting it bring me down. While End Times occasionally reminded me of some past experiences, it also underscored to me how happy I am with how things have turned out.

Once again, on the occasion of this final day of the year, I want to wish everyone who reads this blog—whether regularly or just occasionally—a happy new year, and, of course, the best of luck in 2011.


  1. Charles,

    I bought this album after reading your review of it last night. Wow. It is very powerful and very sad and honest. Thanks for the list and I'm happy to have bought it based on your rec.


  2. Thanks KD, that's a pretty high compliment. I'm glad you're enjoying End Times.

  3. Very enjoyable list and reviews. Have you checked out Mumford and Sons, The Low Anthem, Joanna Newsome or Metric? Do you like Janelle Monae? Not sure if you dig that sort of thing.

    Looking forward to hearing the Eels record based on your endorsement.

  4. Joey,

    It's a bit of a New Year's resolution of mine to try to branch out a bit more this year, because I find myself tiring of the music I'm listening to a little too quickly these days. Janelle Monae would definitely fit that bill. Cool stuff, but I've only listened to her album a couple times so far.

    Mumford and Sons simply didn't do it for me. I loved Joanna Newsom's last album, but over time, I find myself more and more in the category of people who find her annoying.

    I think I listened to The Low Anthem's album last year, but may not have given it a fair shake. Metric is higher on my radar since you recommended them to me a while back, but they didn't release an album in 2010, did they?

    I hope you enjoy the Eels album. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. I have to admit I really like hearing about what you don't like almost as much as what you do. It provides shape and boundary for your point of view and gives me more of sense which selections we're likely to agree on.

    Yep, Metric and Low Anthem had 2009 releases, just wanted to get your overall take. Have you ever commented on a John Doe record?

  6. I don't think I've ever written anything here about John Doe. The only album of his I own is The Knitters' Poor Little Critter on the Road. X is one of those bands that I've been meaning to check out further, but I really never have. The solo stuff of his I've listened to has been solid, but nothing's really blown me away.

  7. Bro - been reading your stuff. Interesting that you and I shared Wilco and the Jayhawks at Saratoga Winners. Truly amazing shows. Can't believe the bookings that fire trap used to get. Bummed I never caught the Paul Westerberg show there, ah well.

    Anyway, give a listen to Lloyd Cole's "Don't Get Wierd On Me Babe" album and compare/contrast away.


    PS - Glad to hear the 'dice is still a good place. Spent the 80's in Boston.