It's not easy being E. On the Eels' latest, the multifaceted songwriter/producer with a one-letter name ticks through a laundry list of sorrows, from heartache to a plague of bugs and vermin ("Flyswatter"). Yet our hero infuses his succinct songs with memorable melodies and observant lyrics, stitching silver linings into each miniature storm cloud. The funereal brass of "Grace Kelly Blues" quickly parts to let in sunnier sounds, while the drum loops and cartoon cadences of "The Sound of Fear" recall Soul Coughing
, albeit minus distracting self-consciousness. Studio trickery is omnipresent but discrete; all 14 tracks could move listeners just as well without the evocative arrangements. For proof, sample "It's a Motherfucker," a piano ballad so simple and disconsolate it, belongs behind safety glass, like Randy Newman
used to write before he grew too smug. Despite dour sentiments, DAISIES OF THE GALAXY slyly manages to accentuate the positive.