The bets way to define them is quirky. That can be a dangerous label. Quirky usually means something like The Flaming Lips, whom I can only really take in small doses. eels are much more accessible while maintaining their oddness.
The latest record is called Wonderful, Glorious and is the best record they have done since my favorite of theirs: Daisies Of The Galaxy.
The LP is a very cool double orange vinyl record. A drawback is that it's only a 10" so there's only 3 songs per side (except for side 4) and the songs aren't exactly "Supper's Ready" length. That's a touch annoying when I listen to it while winding down in the evening because as soon as I get comfy I have to hop up and flip it over. The things I do for sonic perfection. The vinyl showed up a week before the official release day (very nice) so it felt like a secret. On the release date an email arrived with a link to download the record, not just the record itself but a bunch of bonus tracks including extra tracks and an assortment of live tracks. If you want people to order directly from you that's the way to do it...give us extras that we don't get from Amazon or InSound of something like that. Thanks, E!!!
Like I said the record is the best one they have done in many years. Not to say the records in that gap have been bad, not at all. The last couple I will say I didn't like that much, but it is still E and still interesting. He's a great storyteller; the majority of the songs have a tale to tell, of sad sacks and boxers and the heartbroken. But with the sadness that permeates the songs there is always a strong element of hope and light at the end of the tunnel. E strikes me, and based on what he has gone through in his life, as someone who has accepted the pain of life and chooses to see the good parts while acknowledging the sad parts. It makes for great music. And this has a real good chance of being in my 2013 countdown.
Here's "New Alphabet" which is a pretty perfect demonstration of eels are all about:
E is a fascinating guy. A few years ago he grew a beard unibomber style and has kept it for a long while. Looking at the new video it appears he has normalized that beard a bit. The last tour I saw all his band mates had nice long beards as well. And clever aliases: Koool G Murder, The Chet, Knuckles and P-Boo are all credited on the new record. E is the son of Hugh Everett III, the physicist who first proposed the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics. Heavy, dude.