Punch Brothers: Something New, Something Better

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I have a problem with suggestions, in that I take them too seriously. If I hear someone talk enthusiastically enough about something, there is a good chance I will give it shot. I was introduced to Punch Brothers by an interview Chris Hardwick (of @midnight fame) had with Ed Helms on his Nerdist podcast. Helms is an avid bluegrass fan and musician, as you may have suspected from his banjo playing on The Office. The two talked about Punch Brothers for a long time and with such passion that I decided to give a completely new (to me) genre a chance.

Punch Brothers is not your pop’s bluegrass. When I was introduced to them, I noticed some very progressive, sometimes even flirting with the avant-garde, styling within their songs. Some of the relentless high pitch bowing is even abrasive at times, but the overall effect of each song is stunning. My introduction to the band was the album Who’s Feeling Young Now (2013), which as an album isn’t groundbreaking, but by the Gods does it include some infectious tunes.  The apex of which, which I hope captures your attention, is the absolute masterpiece of “New York City”.

This song highlights their unbelievable technical prowess and astonishing songwriting ability. I was absolutely floored the first time I heard this song, possibly only because I have absolutely no grounding in the genre. It seemed so wildly different from anything I was used to, and I couldn’t get enough. Overall, the album has highs and lows, including a few songs that are just a little too bluegrass for my liking, but it is a magnificent collection of songs I would recommend to anyone who enjoys earnest, thoughtful music regardless of usual tastes.

What I really want to point your attention to is their newest release, The Phosphorescent Blues (2015). This album is massively dense, not fully bluegrass, but totally progressive and unforgiving. My fear for this band was that they would continue to focus on their popular straightforward songs, but they seem to be doing just the opposite. For example, the album opener “Familiarity”, totally ignores any standard song structure, never really has a climax, and dauntingly strings you on for over ten minutes.

Who are they trying to please with this? Sometimes I feel like the answer to that is me and me alone, but since that is unlikely, it seems their true ambition is to stretch the boundaries of the genre. The album includes a wide variety of styles, many of which I can’t even classify. Some are very rooted in bluegrass, some obviously aren’t, but they all seem to fit together. One of the other standout sounds, “Magnet”, is not very experimental song structure-wise, but again, seems to be without precedent.

My problem with suggestions usually forces me to waste a lot of time (because I have weird taste) but every once and awhile the addiction pays off. I never really have in interest in meeting celebrities because I would usually have very little to discuss with them, but I would love to meet Ed Helms just to thank him for this non-personal recommendation. Though I still need to explore their back catalog myself, if you even enjoy a minute of this band, you need to dive into these two albums.

(Get the new album from Nonesuch Records, or on Spotify, Image Via)

  • Tyree
    • Dr. Dubz
    • BLOODBEARDE

      You ever thought about playing in a non-grind band, O Grindprophet?

      • Tyree

        Fucking Ay I do. I’d love to do a black metal or blackened thrash band. There is really no scene around where I live so it’s tuff to find people that are influenced by the same bands/metal as I am. One day perhaps.

        • BLOODBEARDE

          That’s a shame, rly. Also, perhaps, more kvlt?

        • Dagon

          I could picture us sludging out on a really nasty band.

          I’d have to go Mike IX on their asses and just scream because I can’t play to save my life.

          • The Beargod

            Dibs on that four-string thing.

          • Tyree

            As long as it’s filthy and hateful I’m pretty much on board. Sludge would be fun to play.

        • Óðhinn

          Black Magic. A band that truly sounds 1980s Metal retro.

          *Warning. Traditional 1980s Metal vocals can be a shock to the system. Please proceed with caution.

          http://youtu.be/nVkDTaZJPqM

    • RepostedAvengedSevenfoldFan

      I would like to see A7X with Disturbed all in one show and then I would totally be ready to die and they could set my coffin on fire and I would be not only buried in my coffin but also cremated in my hole 6 feet down and then I would pay tribute to the lord lucifer and my family would totally like shoot dope all day at my funeral and spit on my grave and sacrifice a lamb once a year on the anniversary of my death. HELL YEAH!!!

      – eufufirjr, 4 months ago

      • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

        You’re the best.

      • Siqq Burnington

        I would respond to you with a dank gif but I am on my cellphone. But just to let you know your reservation in hell has been successfully made.

      • CyberneticOrganism

        Because when you think of lamb sacrifices, you think of A7X & Disturbed.

    • Óðhinn

      Aosoth, fuck yeah!

  • Shrimp ov Bad Opinions
    • Shrimp ov Bad Opinions

      Seriously speaking though, this is actually pretty good, might give it a listen some day.

      • Dagon

        Drums sound bad tho

  • Dr. Dubz

    I’m liking these feels. May the dank sun shine down on you, YLIF.

    http://i.imgur.com/rUHFbjL.jpg

  • Spear

    That swell around 1:16 in “Familiarity” is intense. Oof. I’m really digging this.

    • YourLogicIsFlushed

      The swells are great and seemingly random, then around 6:30 basically a new song starts? I am so thoroughly intrigued by these guys.

      • Spear

        Ha, literally just got to that part. Definitely weird, but in a good way.

        • Dr. Dubz

          I’m right there now.

  • BLOODBEARDE

    This pretty cool. Not really my thing doe

  • Sir Tapir the Based

    Instruments sound pretty good, but I’m not a big fan of the vocals.

    • OldMetalHead

      Just a thought, Bluegrass instruments and DM vocals. Could be a new genre entirely!

      • CyberneticOrganism

        DEATHGRASS

    • Dr. Dubz

      Ya know, tapyr, of all our readers, I have the hardest time pinning down what you like.

    • Tyree

      Vocals are pretty terrible. That’s just my opinion though. Die.

    • Ferris Mueller

      Maybe I could play this back in college while trying to trick some ho into thinking I’m nice and trustworthy and we should bump uglies. A possible alternative to Tom Waits. Other than that, never.

  • EsusMoose

    Here’s my kvlt card

  • you had me at Nerdist podcast.

  • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

    This is dank.

  • DeeSnarl

    Chris Thule used to be in Nickel Creek; probably worth mentioning…

    • YourLogicIsFlushed

      Should have mentioned more that I am very new to this stuff, so I don’t know too much about their history.

      • Nickel Creek >>>>>

      • DeeSnarl

        Yeah, I don’t mean you should have mentioned it, I mean it should be noted. 🙂 Also, it’s Chris Thile, and he’s still in Nickel Creek. I’m not some expert, but I took my girlfriend to see Nickel Creek last year and they were awesome. Also, I’ve got that Who’s Feeling Young Now album – good, good stuff. I want to get more into bluegrass. On a side note, I’ve been rocking the Alison Kraus/Robert Plant album – good stuff for the more adventurous….

  • Dagon

    You have my interest.

  • The Beargod

    Goodgoodhoodgoodgoodgoodgoodhoodhood.
    I like this.

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
    • Dr. Dubz

      You like The Decemberists?

      • Dagon

        I call belated April fools.

      • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

        I only own this album.

        • Dr. Dubz

          Ah. Still, you’ve been pleasantly surprising me this year, King. I like it.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Yeah, it happens. I would still cunt punt their fans, though.

          • Dr. Dubz

            Naturally. Neo-folk/hipster/indie rock fans are more insufferable than metalheads.

          • Kill Joe.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Big time. Total Holocaust.

          • Tyree
          • BLOODBEARDE

            so much capris and boatshoes

            thats what that stuff is called right?

          • Tyree

            It’s called awful.

          • BLOODBEARDE

            What ever happened to men. Men making music about men stuff.

          • Shrimp ov Bad Opinions

            Beat me to it.

          • Dr. Dubz

            You’re right on the boatshoes. Not sure about the pants. Ask Joe. He rolls his up like that?

          • BLOODBEARDE

            Are they in competition with women to see who shaves their legs the best?

            smh

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Fucking painful.

          • Tyree

            Living in a college town, I sadly have to see a lot of this. Painful in-fucking-deed.

          • CT-12

            SO….MUCH…….ANKLE CLEAVAGE

          • Dr. Dubz

            That sort of thing might be considered scandalous in some countries.

          • CyberneticOrganism

            #yachtcore #bro

          • DeeSnarl

            You are one of their fans. Or if you’re not, you should be. Buy them all…

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Nope, I own one album by them, that I haven’t consistently listened to in over 10 years.

      • DeeSnarl

        I fucking love the Decemberists. One of my favorite bands. Just picked up their new one a couple days ago (agony I basically never buy new music).

      • YourLogicIsFlushed

        The only thing I know about The Decemberists is that they made a music video based on a scene in Infinite Jest, which was amazing. Should listen to more than that one song at some point.

        • Dr. Dubz

          I couldn’t name a song by them, but I have way more friends into this style of music than I do friends into metal, so I know I’ve heard them a fair amount. I was not offended.

          • DeeSnarl

            Colin Meloy has an awesome voice, but I’m a sucker for distinctive and high-pitched, I’m just now realizing – saw Jeremy Enigk last night, amazing show…

        • DeeSnarl

          You really should; consider it a recommendation. The older stuff is more proggy….

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            I’ll line it up or sure. So older stuff first?

          • DeeSnarl

            I’d say so, yeah. Maybe The Crane Wife or Picaresque…

          • HessianHunter

            If you want Proggy Decemberists, there’s no topping Hazards of Love. It’s the peak of their career. https://youtu.be/5T9x6ItFXTs

        • Honkey Wienerfart

          I saw a video of their’s on Strictly Global years back, and sorta liked it.

  • Stockhausen

    This rules, YLIF. Thanks for putting these tunes in my ears.

    • Stockhausen

      That sudden tonal shift at 1:18 or so in Familiarity is so cool.

      • YourLogicIsFlushed

        Every song has at least one ridiculously cool aspect. Also love that I consistently post the most hated bands by about half the readership. Makes me lol.

        • Dr. Dubz

          Seems most of us are on board.

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            Actually pretty surprised, was expecting more detractors. Cancel that note.

          • Stockhausen

            I H8 IT U SUKK

        • Dagon

          This time everyone seems to have liked it, myself included.

        • Ban Logical Guacamole.

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            Ban Static

  • Sir Tapir the Based
    • BLOODBEARDE

      Have you tried doing any Chalice Dungeons yet?

      • Sir Tapir the Based

        I have not. I’m gonna try soon.

    • IT GOATS IT GOATS IT GOATS

      I was thinking about writing a Porcelain Throne thing about Wovenhand. Good idea?

      • Sir Tapir the Based

        Do it!

      • Dr. Dubz

        I support this, though I fear readers may be mistaken and think of Wovenwar.

      • YourLogicIsFlushed

        I will gladly accept.

      • nbm02ss

        <3 Wovenhand and 16 Horsepower. Edwards is like the illegitimate child of William Faulkner, who was locked in a cold church basement and only allowed to listen to Nick Cave.

        • Honkey Wienerfart

          I looooooooooooooove 16 Horsepower. Haven’t listened to them in ages though.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Oooh, this I like.

  • A Cat

    *MEEOW*

  • Sir Tapir the Based
  • Guacamole Jim

    Just stopping by to say this album rules.

    • Dr. Dubz

      Get back to the tumblr and don’t show your face until you’ve fixed it!

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Nice writeup, YLIF. I definitely appreciate having diverse tastes & listening to a bunch of different styles of music, but that New York City song sounds like it was written for an iphone commercial.

    • YourLogicIsFlushed

      Ha, I can see that. There’s nothing really challenging about it, but I can’t get it out of my head and actually don’t mind. I usually don’t use “catchy” with positive connotations.

  • Thedeug

    Check out their first release as Punch Brothers (there was one album before they took that name, Chris Thile – How to Grow a Woman from the Ground). It’s called “Punch” and has a four song concerto piece called The Blind Leaving the Blind. It’s about Chris Thile’s divorce and is the first really progressive thing they did. It’s like a classical piece made of dissonant bluegrass and it is heartbreakingly beautiful.

    • YourLogicIsFlushed

      Thanks for the advice, I was making my way back to their earlier stuff.

  • HessianHunter

    One of my favorite bands ever. I think Antifogmatic is their strongest album, while Punch is the proggiest if that’s your jam.

  • Nine Inch Males

    Yeahhh Punch Brothers tear shit up!

  • Honkey Wienerfart

    Definitely not tender-worthy! This reminds me of Jason Mraz or some shit you’d hear in a hipster coffee shop. -50000 tendies.