Hardly a ray of sunshine to begin with, Mark Oliver Everett (a.k.a. eels) has been struck by the twin tragedies of his sisters suicide and his mothers terminal illness. Offering 33 tracks on two discs, Blinking Lights is a manual for mining grace from the ashes of crushing despair; he calls the album a love letter to life itself, in all its beautiful, horrible glory. Everett croons haunted lullabies in the weary rasp of a survivor, tossing in an occasional grouchy rocker for spice, as he portrays his misfit characters without resorting to cheesy melodrama. Whether remembering a final encounter with a loved one or delivering an angry soliloquy on feeling ugly and unwanted, his offhand tone makes the vignettes believableand brings an unsettling poignance to his flirtations with optimism. No wonder Tom Waits, who guests on the dark-humored Going Fetal, is a fan.