Punch Brothers

All Ashore

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Scaling back from the expansive horizons of 2015's T-Bone Burnett-produced The Phosphorescent Blues, Punch Brothers may sound intimate on 2018's All Ashore, but they haven't lost their ambition. All Ashore is designed as a song suite exploring the meaning of committed relationships within the social chaos of the 2010s -- a rich and resonant lyrical concept that the group pairs to sweet and sighing strings. While Punch Brothers don't shy away from pushing at the boundaries of string music -- "The Angel of Doubt" contains vocal phrasing that borrows liberally from hip-hop -- they nevertheless sound relaxed and weathered throughout the record, directing attention to the songs themselves instead of the band's instrumental interplay. Such restraint is a benefit, as the virtuosity isn't absent; it's just used as color, lending contours to these slyly sculpted songs and helping make this potentially weighty emotional subject seem as refreshing as a cool summer breeze.

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