Mark Everett's at it again, moaning-groaning (some would call it singing, but shouldn't) about how it feels so great to feel so fucking awful. "Do you know what it's like to fall on the floor, to cry your guts out till you got no more?" he wonders, the peppy music providing a jarring pick-me-up. "Heeey, man, that's really living." And it's how The Man Called E has made his living for a decade, cutting open his chest and handing you his heart, asking nothing more in return than you listen to his tuneful tales of woe and, perhaps, find something of yourself in his own sorrows. Everett is a man for whom no secret is worth keeping, hence his albums' worth of songs about the mother claimed by cancer and the sister who killed herself.

After the disappointing Shootenanny!, bereft of the passion of its predecessors, Everett returns to his ghostly pursuits and doubles the pleasure, or whatever you call listening to a man sing his demons to sleep with pretty lullabies about graveyards and railroad lines and the need to curl into the fetal position. This is a two-fer concept album, grief splayed across one disc and recovery sprawled over the second, which may be a glib summation of so expansive a project (33 songs, more than 90 minutes long) but pretty much nails it, if I get my lyrics right without aid of a sheet. (Song title from disc one: "Going Fetal." Song title from disc two: "The Stars Shine in the Sky Tonight." See?) He's Randy Newman without characters to hide behind, a pop-rocker who prefers his strings on violins and his old wounds freshly opened, and damn the bandage.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky