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  There Will Be Rain  
  An Epic At Best  
  Two Sheds Music  
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Back in 2007, one night at The Drunken Unicorn, PostLibyan and I happened across Athens band An Epic At Best. Sure, at that point, I already had a copy of their debut album There Will Be Rain, which I thought showed a lot of promise for such a young band. Yet on that one evening, I heard melodies and chorus that caught my attention, and forced me to go back and re-evaluate the record. And I'm pretty glad I did, as it turns out that There Will Be Rain goes beyond the "promising" moniker into something rather accomplished.

The album begins with the slowish piano sounds of This Town, a slightly melancholy ballad that, in the beginning, seems to mimic old Methodist hymns in its chord progressions and melody. Over it, singer/pianist Robert Gunn uses his reedy voice in an evocative manner before the song comes to sudden end. This leads to a bit of shock when the band moves immediately into the show-stopping Carolina, which has angularly sharp guitar work against a plaintive, soft key melody. In the meantime, the vocal narrative begins, telling the tale of a person leaving his home and love. But really, when the entire band comes in, with the bouncing mathy bass line of Natalie Roberts and forceful drum beat of Jamie McGaw, the song begins to soar in proportion to the emotion found in Gunn's voice. Throughout this longish tune, the band plays with the dynamic of tune, becoming softer in part and harder in others. This change of tone within the song reminds me so much of The Potomac Accord (and the pretty piano bits definitely help), that I almost begin to imagine that I can see something of the spirit of that band reborn in An Epic At Best.

After such an…well epic....tune, it's not surprising that the rest of the album, while still quite good, feels a little bit more mundane. Third song Weight of Words has a more minimal albeit still angular feel that recalls the best of late Atlanta band Sharks and Minnows, complete with a memorably catchy chorus. In contrast, Don't Rush Home feels a little forced, as if the band's spirit and energy are held back plodding rhythm and deliberate piano-work, which overshadows the guitarwork of Samuel Collier.

The Color of My Lungs picks up the musical pace substantially. While this tune is a deceptively straight-forward Indie-rock tune, the recording benefits from the loud-ish interplay between the fuzzed out guitars and the strangely dynamic vocals which echo the drumbeat. Likewise, the band's return to dynamic changes within the song suits their music more than the straight-forward music narrative of a song like Don't Rush Home. In contrast, the long Cold Weather Romance returns to An Epic At Best's slower songs. But unlike some of their other slower tunes, this one comes off really well, with a force behind the languidness that gives the music staying power, especially as the music becomes louder and more plaintive towards the end.

The next song, The Day Stephen Set Himself on Fire for Katie, is probably the second best tune on the record, after the sublime Carolina. Beginning with a simple 3/4 riff, after a minute or so, the band comes in to complete the lilting waltz sound. And then, at the end of the second verse, the vocals begin to soar as if to lead the listener up into a separate, darkly lit space before returning to Earth at the very end of the tune. Lovely stuff which demonstrates so effectively the skill of An Epic At Best.

With this, the band moves into its final two songs. Birds is unlike anything else on the record. This tune is more of a straight-up jangle pop song, complete with echo, a delicately brisk melody, and a horn bridge. In some ways, this one reminds me a bit of the happy pop of a band like The Deathray Davies in their latter days. Finally, the album ends with the 10 minute Doethe Hands. It begins with the cool angularity of the best of An Epic At Best's music, with particular sonic emphasis on sparse drumming and guitar arpeggios. Then it moves to the soft vocal narrative melancholy of Robert Gunn, showing that the band can pull off a more ballad-like structure when they want. But, at about the half way mark, the band goes into the musical ebb and flow which they do so well, so that the records comes to a satisfying rocking conclusion.

I have to admit There Will Be Rain holds together better on subsequent listens than it did at first. I think originally I was so struck by the brilliance of Carolina that I sort of dismissed the rest of the album as whole. Yet, there are really really good songs on here as well, most of which fall into the band's normal dynamic interplay. In the end, I think An Epic At Best managed to create a coherently strong album, which should be recognized as such.

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      Concert: Sat.19.May.07

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