“The Phosphorescent Blues” beautifully transcends genre boundaries by incorporating bluegrass licks and silky smooth renditions of Romantic-era pieces to create an album particular to the Punch Brothers.
The album begins with arpeggios played on the mandolin by lead vocalist Chris Thile in “Familiarity.” As this 10-minute song goes on, the listener gets a sense of the Punch Brothers’ command of dynamics, rhythm and harmonic layering. All the musicians work off of each other to create a sound larger than their five-piece band.
What is truly impressive about “The Phosphorescent Blues” is the potential star power the Punch Brothers possess. The singles “My Oh My” and “Magnet” have a driving, exciting energy behind them that is missing from other similar bands like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers. Both of these songs are publicly accessible but do not compromise the overall sound on the album by adding a superfluous pop tone.
The production of “The Phosphorescent Blues” is clean and raw. Nothing is polished. This allows the listener to hear the musicianship on the vocals and wicked fiddle and mandolin solos.
The only negative aspect on this album is its lack of forward momentum on some of the slower tracks like “Julep” and “Forgotten.” Although beautiful, it takes away from the flow the band has so tastefully constructed.
“The Phosphorescent Blues” honors both classical and bluegrass traditions while adapting to a more modern sound and audience. The Punch Brothers have created the defining record of their discography.