Friday, June 11, 2010

Album Review: Punch Brothers- Antifogmatic

Music lovers, rejoice! The much-anticipated follow-up to Punch Brothers' 2008 record Punch is finally upon us. Titled Antifogmatic, the group's second Nonesuch release hits shelves this Tuesday. It's an impressive, strong album that should be a necessity for any fan of progressive country/bluegrass.

Whereas Punch was generally more serious and formal, Thile and company stretch and break loose on Antifogmatic. Fear not, the group still stays impressively tight, but you won't find any forty-minute suite centerpieces here. Antifogmatic sounds natural, honest, and easy-going.

"Don't Need No" begins with a quick, slightly jarring jam before falling sharply into a solid, funky rhythm with fiddle player Gabe Witcher taking over on vocals. From there, the quintet slides gracefully into the very cheeky "Alex," which is available as a free promotional download on the band's website.

You can't help but laugh a little during "Next to the Trash" as Chris Thile expounds on having a lady who keeps him in line. The waltzy feel lends to the light air, and it's nice to hear Thile make fun of himself a bit.

The album comes to a beautiful close with "This Is The Song (Good Luck)." It's a brilliant final track, bidding a lover (or, equally fitting, a listener) farewell, assuring her that everything will work out okay despite difficult circumstances.

One thing that's clear throughout the whole album is that while the band is often billed as "Punch Brothers featuring Chris Thile," the other members are lightyears beyond being merely Thile's back-up band. You might not always notice Noam Pikelny's banjo, Chris Eldridge's guitar, Paul Kowert's bass, or Gabe Witcher's fiddle--but they're there, weaving together to create a rich tapestry of sound.

Unfortunately, Punch Brothers' rigorous summer tour schedule doesn't include a North Carolina stop. If you're up for a road trip, you can catch them in Lexington or Berryville, Virginia in late September. Until then, you'll just have to keep Antifogmatic close at hand.

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