Eli Young Band, ‘Life at Best’ – Album Review
'Crazy Girl' by the Eli Young Band is one of the year's best-selling digital singles. A quirky video has helped make the song somewhat of a sneaky hit despite a lukewarm response thus far from radio stations in states that don't rhyme with "Lexus." Their fourth album, 'Life At Best,' could similarly slip under the radar despite songwriting as good as anything on the radio in 2011.
The band -- Mile Eli, James Young, Chris Thompson and Jon Jones -- wrote or co-wrote all but five of the album's 14 songs. Aside from the very first lyric on the very first song, listeners have to work a little to appreciate their poetry. 'Even If It Breaks Your Heart' could serve as the group's theme song.
"Way back on the radio dial / A fire got lit inside a bright-eyed child / Every note wrapped around his soul / From steel guitars to Memphis all the way to rock and roll," Eli sings on the opener. Most of the remaining songs are about more ordinary country fare. Some could call this one self-serving, but it's too good of a song to criticize.
From there, one must do some digging. This is partially because the foursome is naturally understated, but also because while their lyrics are extraordinary, the melodies are more ordinary. Songs like 'Every Other Memory' and 'The Falling' take a few listens to appreciate. "It ain't the falling in love that'll kill me / It's the sudden stop," Eli sings on 'The Falling,' the sweetest 'Dear John' letter to a one night stand ever written.
'My Old Man's Son' is another album highlight. It's rare to find an ode to mothers and fathers that doesn't get gushy as soon as possible. The Eli Young Band leave the syrup on the table to create another muted beauty."From the way I laugh to the way I hold a woman's hand / Everywhere I go, wherever I run / I'll be my old man's son."
There are 14 tracks on 'Life at Best, ' which may be about three too many. Eli's voice is unique and he does well to work within his abilities, but it's not dynamic enough to continue surprising listeners after 35 or 40 minutes. The album drags on like a good movie that needs to shave off a few scenes to be a great movie. Few have worked harder this century to 'make it' in Nashville than the Eli Young Band, and they may be one smash single away from getting there. We recommend 'Every Other Memory.'