Saturday, August 20, 2011

Album Review: Eli Young Band - Life At Best

The Eli Young Band is one that is not well known outside of the Lone Star State, and while they never exactly "rock out", their music is down to Earth and relatable.  They are considered "Texas Country", but, if I were to be honest, I would tell you that I do not know what separates that from regular Country, except that it comes from Texas.  All I know is that the band that brought us "Always The Love Songs" and "Guinevere" returns with their fourth studio album and in keeping with their tradition, they do not overpower us with their music, but put their focus on their lyrics.

Even If It Breaks Your Heart - This is about as upbeat of a song as you will find on the album.  This is not a bad thing, as the style of the band is slower than a lot of their contemporaries.  The song is a feel good song about chasing your ambitions:  "Some dreams stay with you forever/ Drag you around but bring you back to where you were/ Some dreams keep on gettin better/ Gotta keep believin if you wanna know for sure/ Ohhh, I can hear em playin/ I can hear the ringin of a beat up ol guitar/ Ohhh, I can hear em singin 'Keep on dreamin, even if it breaks your heart.'"  "Even If" is a great lead song that accurately frames the band's sound, preparing you for the rest of the album.

Crazy Girl - The first single off of the album, "Crazy Girl" is a waltz that currently sits at #14 on the country charts.  The singer is finding himself having to convince his woman that he did not leave because he is leaving her, he just needed to walk away from what was likely an argument.  The song is beautifully written, as are all of the band's songs, and I look forward to seeing it continue to climb the chart.

Every Other Memory - Unfortunately, it seems that the singer's girl was not content to stay with him, as he is recalling the memory of her suitcase on the bed as she leaves.  This is one of the most upbeat breakup songs that I have heard, and it serves a great lesson.  Too often, we get down about the fact that we have been dumped, but the singer sits here and thinks about the good times:  "Every other memory/ I have of you is good/ And if I could only rewind time/ I hope you know I would"

On My Way - An upbeat song, but not one that stands out (though that could be the fact that it is 3:30 in the morning right now).  The singer finds himself in a traffic jam, anxious to get to his woman.  As he reaches the chorus, he starts describing all the ways that she is amazing, saying that she shines "like a heads up penny lying on the ground".

Skeletons - This is my favorite song on the album, and I am not sure why.  The singer is reminiscing on his past, and the decisions he has made.  "The mistakes I've made/ Are coming back to haunt me/ Like a ghost from the grave/ Always there to taunt me/ You say it's okay/ You say you still want me/ But you don't know where I've been/ I'm no stranger to my sins/ I've got skeletons".

I Love You - This is probably the only song that EYB does that feels overdone.  I have mentioned it before, but the idea of everybody doing what they do best, or what comes natural, but just as easily, the singer loves his woman.  As it is worn out, there is nothing particularly special here.

The Fight - This album is a great one for someone who is down on their luck, and this song is an example of why.  While the music itself is not uplifting, the message is, and it works well alongside the first track from the album: "You gotta fail, a thousand times/ Before you ever see it through/ You gotta spend your last dime/ Before you ever make a million" the singer says in the chorus, before concluding "But it's the way the sun will rise/ Through the darkest night/ Yeah it's always been worth the fight"

My Old Man's Son - Many artists have done tributes to their parents, but there is something about this one that feels different, and therefore separates it from the pack.  Perhaps it is that rather than just singing about how great his father is, the singer instead looks at himself and sees exactly how much like his old man he is, first saying "From the way I laugh/ To the way I hold a woman's hand" and in the second verse comparing "The way I shake on a deal/ The way I hold a steering wheel/  Everywhere I go/ Wherever I run/ I'll be my old man's son".

Recover - Another song about overcoming setbacks, "Recover" finally picks the beat up a bit more.  Whether it is a break up or some other obstacle, we are usually stronger than we feel at the time, and the singer reminds us that no matter what, we do not have to give up, because we can, and will, recover.  It fits in great with the ongoing theme set by "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" and "The Fight".

The Falling - This is another of my favorite songs on the album, but because it takes a common theme in country music, the idea of leaving, and gives an explanation for why he is that way. He apologizes for a one-night stand, but explains that it has to be that way for him, because "It ain't the falling in love I'm scared of/ It ain't the moonlight shining in your eyes/ It ain't the falling baby, 'cause the falling I've always liked/ I'm good at being lonely, 'cause lonely is all I've got/ It ain't the falling in love I'm scared of/ It's the sudden stop".  I love the honesty of the song, and the upbeat tempo, probably the fastest on the album, makes it catchy.  If I had to pick, this would probably be my choice to follow "Crazy Girl" as a single.

War On A Desperate Man - Along with "Falling" and "Skeletons" this song rounds out my top songs on the album.  The hopelessness and honesty in the singer's voice will resonate with everyone.  It reminds me of "Modern Day Prodigal Son" by Brantley Gilbert.  I really cannot write about this one and do it justice, so I highly recommend you give this song a solid listen.

Say Goodnight - EYB is ready to cuddle up, and likely do more, with his baby and call it a night, even though the sun is still in the sky.  The romance is building, the kisses, the touches, everything is leading to what they both know is coming, why wait or deny it is going to happen: "I just want to draw the blinds/ And say goodnight/ Oh, won't you let me pull you into me/ Go where all these kisses lead?/ Turn down the bed, turn out the lights/ And say 'Goodnight'"

How Quickly You Forget - The opening of this song reminds me a lot of the tune of "Skeletons".  The singer is trying to remind his lover of when everything was perfect.  Things are obviously a far cry from that, and the singer is realizing that.  This is not a spectacular song, but the way it is sung keeps it from being a low point on the album.

Life At Best - Closing out with the title track, EYB reminds us that while things are not easy, that is kind of the point.  The subject is looking at other people, most likely celebrities, in envy, but the band is here to point out it is not all peaches, because: "Life at best is a struggle/ Life at best can be trouble/ Store up on love, stay humble/ That's all it gets baby, life at best".  The song continues the theme that I have been pointing out throughout the review, that things are not as bad as they seem, and that we are able to push through the obstacles to reach where we want to be.

Overall, Eli Young has released a fantastic album, but the lyrics are not going to be genuinely appreciated the first time through.  I had to listen to them several times to realize how good they truly are.  This feel-good album should be highly recommended, and deserves the opportunity to shine outside of just Texas.  I hope that this album provides Eli Young Band an opportunity to break into the spotlight.  8.5/10

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