Saturday, October 9, 2010

Punch Brothers - Antifogmatic

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My discovery of Punch Brothers was one of those happy little accidents that occurred when browsing through Rolling Stone to see if anything interesting was mentioned. It was in fact: There was an article mentioning Punch Brothers and their habit to perform covers from all sorts of bands like The Carter Family, Radiohead, The Strokes, even some Mozart and Bach. Well that peaked my interest as to how a so-called bluegrass band would do all these covers. A few minutes later I was sampling their CD and really liked what I heard. Punch Brothers' Antifogmatic might be one of the most epic albums I've listened to in quite some time, if not my whole life. Why's this? Well sure they have this bluegrass instrumental assortment of mandolin, guitar, double bass, banjo, and fiddle but it's how they use them that really captivates you. Each instrument has its place in adding to the overall feel of the song: whether its the chops and glissando of the fiddle in "You Are". "Don't Need No" features fiddle player Gabe Witcher on lead vocals and describes the structure in the first verse: "Don't need no chorus, cash, or candy now". Instead, the chorus-less song is mostly instrumental featuring flashy virtuosic displays from each band member within its 4 minute time frame. You'd never guess the song is merely about having a friend who happens to be a bartender because the song is just too interesting for something so mundane. "Rye Whiskey" with its group shout vocals, lyrics about the strong influence of alcohol, and swaggering sounds like your typical bluegrass fare and yet something about it is different.

The album is jam-packed with all these great musical moments and gives the impression that it's more about conveying the feeling of the song than adhering to any strict style which why it sometimes diverts from hoe-down party bluegrass ("Me and Us" being the prime example). The album does a wonderful job of providing an eclectic blend of songs whether its the good-times party type ("Don't Need No"), ballads ("Alex" "Missy"), adventurous epics ("Woman and the Bell"), and everything in between. Its an album for everyone, even if bluegrass isn't particularly your thing. Give Punch Brothers an listen in this live video of album opener "You Are":

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