Eli Young Band is a unique sound borne out of Denton, Texas and the creative brilliance of Mike Eli, James Young, Jon Jones and Chris Thompson.
I had the pleasure here at Country Music Pride of chatting with Eli Young Band live back in July. When we talked, the guys collectively felt that “it (Life At Best) is the best record we’ve made so far.”
I was only slightly familiar with the band at the time of our conversation. That familiarity being “When It Rains”, “Guinevere”, “Always The Love Songs” and “Crazy Girl.” All of which I found to be phenomenal artistic creations. I was eagerly looking forward to their upcoming album “Life At Best”. After our chat, I have to admit my “looking forward to” became “waiting with bated breath.”
Well, “Life At Best” has arrived and I’ve had the honor of listening. And oh, how I can understand why they felt “Life At Best is the best record we’ve made so far.”
Utilizing clear, crisp instrumentation and rich, defining vocals over elaborate studio production, Eli Young Band has composed an over-the-top 14-track compilation of instrumental purity, vocal captivation and lyrical originality. The songs, the stories, the band … all rock – all 14 tracks !
Ya, I said 14 tracks – of sheer, breathtaking brilliance.
Back just a little bit in time, Eli Young Band released a 5-song EP, all of which were tracks that would be part of the final album. The band shares “It was just a chance to get some of our music out to the fans early which is the most important thing to us. It’s been a couple of years since we put out our last record ‘Jet Black and Jealous’ so any chance we can give our fans to get music is important to us.”
Now, if you’re thinking, well the album’s half made, half heard – think again.
Eli Young Band not only gave their eager-to-hear-new-music fans a 5-song EP preview to their upcoming album to purchase as part of the iTunes complete my album program; they not only offered a FREE download demo version of “Room Goes Dark”; they went back into the studio and compiled nine more tracks (almost another complete album) for their fans. THAT’S what I call giving. THAT’S what I call an album. THAT’S what I call awesome. And THAT’S what Eli Young Band calls “Life At Best”.
Are we talking fillers here? Hardly. The only thing “Life At Best” is filled with – and you can hear and feel on every track – is passion for what they do, perfection for how they do it and gratitude for who they do it for.
The album is supported not only by 14 outstanding tracks, but also by the first and last track acting as subliminal bookends. The album opens with the “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” cover about ‘dreaming’ and closes with the feeling of how having followed that dream they’ve (EYB) arrived at a song, an album and a feeling that is “Life At Best”. I don’t know if they planned that subliminal if-you-stick-with-your-dream-you’ll-arrive-at-life-at-best musical bookends but it’s certainly a unique happenstance.
That being said, I have to confess, I have never been so strongly and so immediately captivated before by an artist I only slightly knew. But being seven tracks in and noting five, 5-star favorites, I knew “Life At Best” was truly a work of art in every sense of the word.
The album opens with the nostalgic cover of Will Hoge’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart”. A gentle, metaphoric reminder that no matter what your “it” is and no matter if “it” breaks your heart – keep dreaming. The band did a superb job with this track. Hopefully it will see radio.
The Eli Young Band and “Life At Best” album took that message to heart for 13 more tracks. Combining sounds similar to the depth and richness of Dave Matthews and an extension of the edginess and energy of Bakersfield, “Life At Best” is infused with rich musical compositions, strong back beat and pure instrumentation. “Life At Best” is a musical euphoria that grabs your attention.
The sultry “Every Other Memory” uptempo confession opens with a sound combination of Dave Matthews then picks up with a reminder of Hanna McEuen (anybody remember that short-lived, outstanding duo ! ) and builds musically and vocally ’til the end. This seduction on my memory bank gave me the shivers, start to finish. A gorgeous hit song. Hopefully we’ll see this one as a single.
But that’s honestly just a whisper of what screams of artistic excellence. “On My Way” takes a common theme and builds musical tension that has you riding alongside this lyric. “Skeletons” will definitely jump out at you – be careful – as they always do. This musically haunting composition invokes a chilling reminder that we all have, wrestle with and can’t outrun our skeletons. Another hit song off this album.
“I Love You” is an interesting, simple ballad of analogies that define us and/or bind us. This thought-provoking favorite continues and emotionally explodes into an admission of character. But is “it” his strength or his vice? Listeners will insert their own perception. It’s a delightful hit track where I haven’t heard the untraditional carrying of a short, syllabic hook mastered this gracefully since Chesney debuted this melodic trick in “She’s from Boston”.
“The Fight” is a tried and true theme with an infectious melody that seduces you from the first chord and stays with you ’til the last word. But it’s how it’s told, the powerful vocals and the crisp, musical composition that drives this and every other song on the album to your heart. Another hit and hopefully a single.
Are you keeping track of how many times I’ve said “a hit” …
The instrumental portrait in “My Old Man’s Son” will have you lost in your thoughts of just who you are while “Recover” is a foot-stomping song of inspiration. “The Falling” is an interesting reminder of what we’re all afraid of when it comes to … falling !
“War On a Desperate Man” is a reflective ballad that has you all ears and heart. You’ll find yourself captive to the composition and a mirror to the lyric. This hit is delightfully rich all around.
What I was discovering as I was listening to “Life At Best” is that it isn’t merely an album to “hear”. It’s an album to “feel”. Eli Young Band creates 14 of the most enticing intros ever to dance upon your tympanic membrane and seduce your sensory system – such as the one introducing (but not limited to) “Say Goodnight” – a rich, romantic invitation to succumb to your emotions.
“How Quickly You Forget” is a very different and slinky number. With emotional guns drawn and music building, this chilling track has the feel somehow of a Texas showdown. Tension, lyric and melody building, we’re reminded of how quickly we forget that which got us where we are. A unique … um, c’mon let’s say it together … hit !
“Life At Best”, the title track, closes this hit after hit album of excellence and reminds you just what determines life at best.
If you’re an Eli Young Band fan, you’re going to revel in the silky seduction in this disc that has so many tracks it could be classified a double. If you’re an Eli Young Band newcomer, indulge in the temptress tracks and magnificence of “Life At Best”, a 2011 Top Pick compiled with perfection to make its mark in musical history.