With Eli Young Band, I’ve always kind of struggled with how pop they sounded. Sure, their lyrics might be of a modern country style, and there’s dreams and love and alcohol and all that good stuff involved. But for me, sonically, they straddle somewhere between indie pop and alternative rock. I don’t know, maybe that’s just what all the cool young kids are listening to, and I should get more hip. 21 going on about 45.
That said, ‘Dust’ began to grow on me after a few listens. Eli Young Band have a knack for creating catchy hooks and they haven’t scrimped here (although it doesn’t quite have the same effect as the increasingly annoying ‘Drunk Last Night’ had – every time I see the title it’s in my head for hours and I only know the chorus). The driving rhythm and call-and-response harmony on key pre-chorus lines draw on that ear-worm element, and build a suspense to make the full-pelt chorus truly a peak moment. Involving a story about female escape and emancipation and driving away from everything that’s been holding her back, it’s appropriate that this is a great song to play in the car. Erring on the side of alternative rock instrumentally with dirty guitars and a heavy drum line, melodically and structure-wise it draws more upon pop influences, and it should be noted that Mike Eli’s light, high-pitched voice aids the effect of the latter.
Sure, it would be nice if we had more a twang here, as it would be with a lot of their material. There does seem to be a pedal steel low in the mix, as far as I can tell, but it’s more there to fill the production rather than have any particular instrumental purpose. It is very much a maximum-volume-no-space-for-subtly-all-the-way-through affair, and it would have been nice if things had been given a little more room to breathe. But when faced with the delights (ugh) of bro-country, this really doesn’t seem such a bad idea. It’s a strange thing when a rock/pop song becomes a breath of fresh air on radio, but this is what 2014 has to offer us. Still, it’s a solid release, and should stand them in good stead for ’10,000 Towns’.