Eli Young Band made their major-label debut with Jet Black & Jealous, an album that stretched the definition of contemporary country music to include pop melodies and rock & roll guitars. The band does the same on this follow-up release, but the new tracks don’t pack the same punch as “Radio” and “Throw and Go,” two songs that elevated Jet Black above the rest of the Nashville pack. Perhaps it’s because Eli Young Band is now one of countless country bands who take their cues from other genres. Or maybe it’s because these songs simply aren’t as memorable, trading genuinely affable hooks for a paint-by-the-numbers approach to country-pop. By a long shot, the best song here is the opening number, a revamped version of Will Hoge’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” that smoothes down the original’s rough edges and beefs up the chorus with three-part harmonies. The band sounds far too even-keeled for this sort of chest-swelling anthem, though, and the song never really gets off the ground. The rest of Life at Best is similarly beached, with songs that target the band’s female fans (“Crazy Girl”) or evoke Sister Hazel (“Every Other Memory”) with semi-solid results. Life at Best isn’t a bad album; it’s just a step backwards.
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey