Punch Brothers The Wireless EP

Punch Brothers The Wireless EP
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Punch Brothers are at it again. Recorded at the same time as their most recent T-Bone Burnett-produced album, The Phosphorescent Blues (released this January), this five-track EP carries on the fine tradition of Punch Brothers' eclecticism. Four of the five tracks were included as bonus tracks on the vinyl version of that album, so their re-release as an EP is an interesting move.
 
Musically, there are few surprises here. Instead, we see Chris Thile (mandolin), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Eldridge (guitar), Paul Kowert (bass) and Gabe Witcher (fiddle) deliver their usual virtuosic instrumental performances, set off by larger-than-life vocal harmony arrangements. "In Wonder" is perhaps the least immediately likeable of the tracks, but it's the sort of song that grows on you, especially once the triumphant bridge kicks in.
 
The rest are great pieces. "The Hops of Guldenberg" starts off with a playful, David Grisman-esque mandolin intro, and features bowed bass and a great guitar solo by Eldridge. Then, we get a taste of the band's (odd) sense of humour on the swinging "Sleek White Baby," with its Andrews Sisters-style vocals and old fashioned snake-oil infomercial interlude, with a cameo by actor Ed Helms. "No More. Yet," propelled by Pikelny's banjo roll and punctuated by forceful guitar chops, is the one previously unreleased track, and another typical rollercoaster of a tune, segueing from mood to mood.
 
A cover of Eliott Smith's slow and sweet "Clementine" rounds out the EP. As a post-script to their last album, this ought to hold fans over until the band's next release. (Nonesuch)