An Epic at Best plays music that traffics in the frustration, pain, and intermittent moments of joy that come with growing up. They may be older and wiser now, but they haven’t forgotten. The Athens-based band’s piano-driven pop songs, which draw as much from the melancholy musings of Will Oldham as they do from the honest power of Braid, can come off as disarmingly specific pictures of a place and time, but the stories they tell could just as easily be yours. Lazy writers often say that a band “plays from the heart”; An Epic at Best gives that phrase new meaning. They play their sad, uncertain songs with an exuberance that renders them more human.
There Will Be Rain is the band’s impressive debut record, recorded by Eric Friar at Downtown Athens Recording Company. Singer Robert Gunn’s piano is at the heart of the record, providing the songs with an anchor, while bassist Natalie Roberts and guitarist Criswell Collier (since replaced by Athens scene veteran Roy Coughlin) add stabs of melodic color to the proceedings. James McGaw seals the deal with drums that make the fast parts bounce and the slow parts swoon. On “Weight of Words” a propulsive chorus gives way mid-song to a time-stopping, perfect bridge; by the time the band pulls things back into the song, you will be singing along, fist in the air. Contrast that with “Cold Weather Romance,” a slow, seasick ballad that could easily soundtrack an aimless night drive through your hometown, looking unsuccessfully for a street you’ve never been down before.
The addition of Coughlin to the fray resoundingly brings these songs alive onstage. As the rest of the band is wont to say, “the soft parts are softer and the louder parts are louder.”
Let An Epic at Best remind you of all those times when the world seemed bleak, when your life seemed like a doomed tale writ large for the screen, and let them remind you that everything’s fine now so let’s laugh and rock about it.