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Top 20 of 2012: 1. Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now?

1. Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now?

Punch Brothers - Who's Feeling Young Now?This year’s top record might be a surprise, unless you’ve actually heard Who’s Feeling Young Now?. Punch Brothers‘ third (technically fourth if you count Chris Thile‘s How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, which also featured the band) album mostly left what the critics called “progressive bluegrass” in favor of something pretty close to indie folk.

After mixing genres like bluegrass and classical on their first albums, Who’s Feeling Young Now? focuses more on songwriting. Thile and the rest of the band still pluck and bow at virtuoso levels, but this time it’s more about how the instruments work together — often in the background — instead of the heavily layered bluegrass.

There’s also a great deal of instrumental manipulation. The violin on “Hundred Dollars” is about as far from the fiddle as you can get, and I’m still baffled how they managed to so perfectly cover Radiohead‘s “Kid A” with mandolin, acoustic guitar, violin, double bass and banjo.

And what better way to celebrate our album of the year than by seeing them live on New Year’s Eve? Tonight, Punch Brothers finish off their three-night run at Bowery Ballroom in New York, and I couldn’t be more excited.

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