3 Reasons Punch Brothers is the new Beach Boys

The Beach Boys and Punch Brothers
So if you know me at all, you know that no music speaks to my soul quite like Punch does. And the Beach Boys are legendary – a truly revolutionary rock band. Now, I’m not going to voice my opinion about which band I prefer (they’re revolutionary to the world of music in different ways and for different eras). But because I love them both so, here’s 3 reasons why Punch is the Beach of the 21st century.

#1: Iconic vocals. The Beach Boys are known for the effortless harmonies that tie each song together. They gave harmony a voice (so to speak) and made it a significant element of the melody, not a slightly audible background noise that adds some texture. The vocal track is as textured as possible. Also, all 5 members of both BB and PB sing. The vocal ranges of Brian Wilson and Chris Thile are beautifully similar, hitting notes that I couldn’t hit when I was a 5 year old girl. Here’s a Thile example for you.

#2: Genre Confusion. The Beach Boys are first called a rock band, but they’re influenced heavily by doo-wop, jazz vocal groups and today are called mid-century pop. They defied a single definition and under the creative genius of Brian Wilson, took the form of many all at once.
Similarly, PB can be called a bluegrass group, but that just doesn’t describe well enough what it is they do. They have the instruments of a bluegrass band, sure, and lead vocalist and mandolin player Thile is known for his bluegrass background (such as in the recently reunited band Nickel Creek). But they play off of modern classical as well, as is visible in their inclusion of Passepied by Debussey or the Prélude by Scirabin on their most recent album The Phosphorescent Blues. They take the classics of classical and bluegrass and give them an undeniable edge, creating something totally new.

#3: “America’s Band” – in more ways than one. The Beach Boys are known for singing of American ideals, particularly during their sunshine-surfing-girl-getting songwriting days. They are the iconic sound of the 4th of July, of young love and of the rebellious teenage years. But what seemed obviously American on the outside was hiding something dark inside, which came out later in albums like Pet Sounds. Brian Wilson’s personal darkness reflected in his songwriting. And what you would call “bluegrass” of Punch Brothers isn’t the typical bluegrass round style (although it’s certainly drawn from that). There’s a dissonance present in their songwriting that twists the classic American style into something totally new. They take modern classical pieces, arrange them with new instruments, and pair them on an album that talks about the human inability to relate to his fellow man in a technology-driven age.

Is there anything more American than something that seems understandable and simple on the outside (freedom, bluegrass music, popular rock ‘n roll) but is complicated and dark on the inside?

Here’s one of my favorite BB songs from their album Pet Sounds.

If you’re a fan of these bands and have thoughts on the subject, I’d love to hear your input!

x. Amanda

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