EELS, Daisies of the Galaxy (Dreamworks) Happy music for sad people or sad music for happy people— I can't decide and I don't care to,

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Eels, Seely, Guy

EELS, Daisies of the Galaxy (Dreamworks) Happy music for sad people or sad music for happy people— I can't decide and I don't care to, but you go ahead and pick one if you think it's important. The Eels are back, and it sounds like frontman Mark Everett (a.k.a. E) is feeling a little better. (Maybe because Peter Buck and Grant-Lee Phillips play on his new album. That would make me feel better.) Daisies is sweet and bitter, because as anyone who has been down as far as E once was will tell you, getting better is some pretty scary shit. I suppose that's why the music feels breakable even when it's happy. I can't help but compare Daisies with its predecessor Electro-Shock Blues, which in 1998 rendered me completely reliant on my CD player for something like seven months. The melancholy electronic twinklings and miniorchestral movements are still here, along with E's strong and whispery voice and sometimes silly journal-entry ramblings that segue into sorrowful songs. Now they're just better, like when you kick therapy and flush the rest of your pills down the toilet. Daisies is more Wurlitzer and less worrisome. More Beck and less broken-hearted. More "I think, you know, I'll be OK" and less "My life is piss and shit." Don't get me wrong, this album isn't kitties and glitter (although there is that song about birds . . .). At the end of the album you understand. Buried and unmarked, like a feeling you're not sure you should be proud of, is a song that ends with the glorious and vindicated line, "Goddamn right, it's a beautiful day." —Laura Learmonth

SEELY, Winter Birds (Koch) Atlanta's Seely blipped on the radar 'bout the same time as the American Analog Set, and both got slapped with the "Stereolab's American cousin" tag. Which of course they hated, and which of course was somewhat justified. Three albums in, Seely still sounds a bit 'Labby—a term AmAnSet's Andrew Kenny once hit me with. The first two discs, and 1997's Seconds in particular, bristled with electronic energy but also allowed some ragged edges to seep through, enlivening the atmospheric songs and providing a little gravitas. On Winter Birds, Seely breaks out the sandpaper and smooths things out, and it makes the songs float by as serenely as a gull in a lonely sky. Extended riffs and repetitive grooves in sidewinding workouts like "Sapelo Sound" and "The Kangaroo Communique" brush up against the Sea and Cake, while Steven Satterfield and Lori Scacco tag-team on breathy vocal tracks like "El Cajon" and "Alias Grace" for that equal-rights, indie-Euro-pop effect. Fortunately, it's all solidly played and accessible as can be, and then Seely finishes off the disc with a trio of stunning, fidgety tracks that flutter around a great melody, yielding rich surprises—like a series of mirages that turn out to be real.—Richard A. Martin

GUY, Guy III (MCA) The 10 years between Guy's second album, The Future, and the new Guy III have been good to Teddy Riley's canny late '80s fusion of R&B structure and aggressive hip-hop rhythms. Sure, the new jack swing exemplified by such Riley-produced hits as Johnny Kemp's "Just Got Paid" and Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative," not to mention the first two Guy albums, currently sounds about as cutting edge as "The Twist." But they essentially invented pop radio as we now know it, and they're fondly remembered. So although Riley may be overstating things when he breathlessly attributes his reunion with the Hall brothers to "God—and you" at the top of Guy III, figure he's got a right to boast, because while it won't revolutionize anything, it's still a better album than its predecessors. Crossing his hyper early formula with the laid-back thrust of his work with the now-defunct Blackstreet, Riley is too mature to even try to play catch-up with the likes of She'kspeare or Mannie Fresh; his beats recapitulate his strengths nicely, and they jam. And a decade on, lead singer Aaron Hall has matured enough to leave the melisma abuse to R. Kelly: He's convincing throughout, particularly on "Why You Wanna Keep Me From My Baby," where he battles for his child's custody. —Michaelangelo Matos

 
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