2/4/15

The Phosphorescent Blues . . .

Chris Thile started playing music professionally around the age most of us were when we started the second grade. Maybe third (you whiz kids with your letters and numbers). He's now just 33 years old and he has, as far as I can tell, matured to the point of being 60 while still looking no more than 18 years or so old (the age he was when I first became smitten with his musical talents on the fantastic "Nickel Creek" (he was then the front for the on-again/off-again group by the same name) and the single "Out of the Woods" specifically).

A LOT can (and has) happened in 15 years. Thile has formed, played with, left, rejoined, reformed, and rejiggered what seems like a million different ensembles including working with the amazing Yo-Yo Ma on the first album from the formidable "Goat Rodeo Sessions" - an album that still sorta blows my mind for how bendy it gets with genres and musical sound. Seriously . . . check out "Attaboy"!

Not only has his musical career changed but our world has changed and Thile, wise beyond his years, pulled together his group Punch Brothers for a new album (their fourth) that reflects that change - specifically the notion of what social media, smart phones, digital communication, and all that "jazz" has done to our notion of intimacy, relationships, and "self."

To be clear the message of the band (through the album) is not one of happiness for this trend. As the cover art might imply - they seem to think it is a bad thing. "Your trouble vibrates the table," they sing. "There's nothing to say, that couldn't just as well be sent, I've got an American share, of 21st century stress."

The interesting thing? In the spirit of that whole "It's not what you say, it is how you SAY it" way - the album is not preachy or negative or even dark. It is almost upbeat and happy and celebratory of life as it happens between Tweets, hashtags, and e-mails. There are nods to life before the technology - a version of Debussy's "Passepied" is beautiful and rich and warm. "My Oh My" is a fun jab at the notion that wonderful days are only possible if we capture and share their every moment . . . perhaps even allowing us to not be there to enjoy it. It is wonderfully wry "How long can you keep the world spinning under our phone?" asks Thile.

I won't belabor the point. Check out the album. Enjoy the album. Put your phone down and just really enjoy it - and then Tweet and update your Facebook status to encourage everyone you know to do the same. Or just, you know, blog about it.

We're doomed! But we'll have excellent music in our ears on the way down . . .