Best Album of 2015 To: Put on While Passing Around a Bottle of Whiskey
First Bite: “Julep”
Punch Brothers set the bar high in 2015 with the January release of Phosphorescent Blues. I love Chris Thile’s first venture, Nickel Creek, for their frantic instrumentation and classic bluegrass sound. But Punch Brothers offer something more with “Phosphorescent Blues,” appealing to our emotions and mixing in classical song structures. Listening to songs like “Julep” make me nostalgic for a time I have never experienced, one filled with swing dancing, horseback riding, and bourbon sippin’. It’s also easy to listen to anything Chris Thile puts out, who is arguably one of the best on the mandolin.
When I was first starting to date my girlfriend in Colorado, this album served as a distinct first common interest for us. It’s always weird in those initial stages of getting to know someone where you have to tip toe around every interest to see what you do and don’t have in common. While taking a drive up the mountains during one of these first couple weekends hanging out, we listened to this album and both emphatically agreed – this one is seriously good. There was no need to test the waters here and we were able to instantly bond over some great music. That’s the feeling you get from listening to Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers. No matter who you talk to, they are undeniably some of the best in the world at what they do. You can be a fan of bluegrass, classical, contemporary rock, or anywhere in between and have an instant appreciation for the level of dedication that went into honing their craft.
Punch Brothers explore a popular theme in recent years of the ever tightening grip of technology that we’ve seen in St. Vincent’s “Digital Witness” and Father John Misty’s “Bored in the USA.” Instead of the outlining the hopelessness and inevitable decline in society that has been rung in with the digital age, Punch Brothers embrace the information overload and spare us from judgement. In “I Blew it Off,” they accept the blues creeping in and provide solace with some raw, acoustic, human-made melodies, which is more and more appealing to me as I’m inundated with all things electric.
Matt MacLean & Leah Bobbey