Chris Thile: Thanks for Listening – soaring melodies and whip-smart lyrics

Fri, Dec 8, 2017, 05:00


Thanks for Listening

Chris Thile



As befits a Renaissance man, the mandolinist supreme Chris Thile could never be described as risk averse. And so these spirited, thoughtful, sunny and imaginative tunes address the challenging theme of listening.

Last year the 36-year-old Californian replaced Garrison Keillor (recently fallen from grace) as the host of the iconic American public-radio programme A Prairie Home Companion, and the songs on Thanks for Listening were heard first in a topical song-of-the-week segment.

In everything he does, solo or in bands like the Punch Brothers, Thile practises a form of eclectic high pop, whether performing bluegrass, Bach or The Beach Boys, always stretching – even at risk of being too artful – and always engaging the audience. He also has a wonderfully quirky pop sensibility, sending his high-pitched voice into soaring cross-genre melodies, and a neat line in whip-smart lyrics.

These qualities are enhanced by the filters applied by Thomas Bartlett, of The Gloaming, who produces with his friend. Bartlett’s elegant piano and moody electronica add layers to impressive songs such as Stanley Ann (about Barack Obama and his mother) and Falsetto (Obama’s successor) while Thile’s playing shimmers throughout.