The Top Ten Eels Songs of All Time

Eels have been one of the most inventive and adventurous indie-rock groups of the last 20 years. Led by E, the band's mercurial singer-songwriter, the group has followed the path of artists like Tom Waits and Randy Newman, weaving a powerfully idiosyncratic spell over listeners. There are so many great songs to choose from, but here are the 10 best introductions to Eels' genius.

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"Trouble with Dreams" ("Blinking Lights and Other Revelations")

eels i'm going to stop pretending that i didn't break your heart
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How best to capture the gently unnerving quality of being asleep and dreaming? With "Trouble With Dreams," E licks the problem by utilizing dime-store keyboards, ticking clocks, disembodied background vocals, and heartbeat drums. In "Dreams," the singer-songwriter addresses the yawning chasm between our aspirations and our realities. In the process, he's concocted a song that's both ethereal and spooky. 

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"Looking Up" ("Tomorrow Morning")

More than a decade and a half into Eels' career, E kept springing surprises on 2010's "Tomorrow Morning". The soulful "Looking Up" has the life-affirming fervor of gospel music, and E proudly proclaims his love for a woman who's got him feeling optimistic about the future. He's so happy, in fact, that the female backup vocalists are actually just him whooping and testifying. 

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"Saturday Morning" ("Shootenanny!")

Inspired by nostalgia for the freedom of childhood, "Saturday Morning" celebrates those long-gone days when the weekend was filled with endless possibilities as you and your buddies just went outside and played. The garage-rock guitars capture all the exuberance of a happy memory that can't last.

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"Fresh Blood" ("Hombre Lobo")

On Hombre Lobo, E adopted the persona of a lonely wolfman looking for love. "Fresh Blood" is the album's creepiest, horniest cut, as Eels craft a horror-movie soundtrack for this tale of seduction. But it's not too scary: E's sardonic sense of humor shines through at every moment, providing this fright-night sojourn with a little campy goodwill.

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"Last Stop: This Town" ("Electro-Shock Blues")

In "Last Stop: This Town," the singer addresses a friendly ghost who wants to revisit his or her old stomping grounds. One of the highlight tracks from "Electro-Shock Blues", an album suffused with anguish about the loss of a loved one -- E's sister had recently committed suicide, and his mother was dying of cancer -- "Last Stop: This Town" is comparatively lighthearted, suggesting that even in death, those close to us still live on in some form. 

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"Mr. E's Beautiful Blues" ("Daisies of the Galaxy")

A song recorded at the last minute for "Daisies of the Galaxy" at the request of label executives who insisted that the album needed a single, "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues" is buoyant indie-rock that fervently attests that "Goddamn right, it's a beautiful day," even if everything seems to be going wrong. The song didn't turn out to be a hit, but it remains one of Eels' most enduring, sunny songs. 

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"I'm Going to Stop Pretending..." ("Blinking Lights and Other Revelations")

Eels have written plenty of sad songs, but "I'm Going to Stop Pretending That I Didn't Break Your Heart" may be the saddest of the bunch. Set around Christmas as the narrator contemplates a love affair that used to be, this "Blinking Lights and Other Revelations" ballad bristles with longing and regret, amplified by the wobbly melancholy of a musical saw. 

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"Dog Faced Boy" ("Souljacker")

For "Souljacker", E wanted to indulge his rock side, and the opening track set the tone. Filled with fat guitar riffs and bad attitude, "Dog Faced Boy" tells the story of a physically repellent young man forced to make his way in the cruel world. E has rarely bellowed with such relish. 

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"Climbing to the Moon" ("Electro-Shock Blues")

Is "Climbing to the Moon" a song about suicide? The lyrics don't make it clear, but this heartbreaking, beautiful tune introduces us to a person suffering from mental anguish who just wants it to be over. E leaves the song's ending ambiguous, leaving us to wonder if any relief will ever come for the poor narrator. 

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"Novocaine for the Soul" ("Beautiful Freak")

Most people heard of Eels thanks to this huge alternative-rock hit from their debut album. A delectable piece of tart self-loathing, "Novocaine for the Soul" brings together funky keyboards and a beautiful pop melody while E sings about the relief he seeks for an unhappy spirit. In the midst of '90s grunge, this song mimicked the era's misery but also offered a welcome relief from it.