E (a.k.a. Mark Oliver Everett): A Man Called E (1992)
But before he started recording as Eels, Everett released a couple albums as simply E. And they're terrific, maybe a little more on the shimmering pop side than the Eels but already revealing Everett's darker lyrical edge. (They're aided by the participation of Parthenon Huxley, a cult hero in his own right among the power pop set.) I don't remember them getting a lot of traction at the time of their release -- 1993's Broken Toy Shop is long out of print, and I didn't discover these until after getting into the Eels -- but they're quite solid.
The 1992 debut has a number of tracks that firmly belong in the Eels' impressive discography. "Fitting In With The Misfits" (arguably a sequel of sorts to Ray Davies' "Misfits") is a joyous little anthem for the outcasts and weirdos, unabashedly embracing outsider status without irony. "I've Been Kicked Around" skillfully coats Everett's recurring themes of alienation and disappointment with a sugary pop confection. "Nowheresville" blends Beatlesque pop with jangly Americana. It's mostly mid-tempo baroque pop wrapped around lyrics wallowing in sadness yet always offering hints of hope around the corner -- "E's Tune" is both terrifyingly bleak yet positively joyful, never maudlin.
Check it out. And go to town on some Eels while you're at it.
Here's the video for opening track "Hello Cruel World":