The past year was quite productive for Chris Thile. He took over the venerable A Prairie Home Companion syndicated radio show, replacing Garrison Keillor’s familiar tales from Lake Wobegon with a fresh and distinctly musical sensibility. He also released three albums: a wonderful set of jazz duets with pianist Brad Mehldau, a Bach trio album with Edgar Meyer and Yo-Yo Ma, and finally, in December, Thanks for Listening, which gathers 10 of the topical songs he wrote for the radio show into a single collection.
The album’s tracks are based in part on the news of the week, and the good news is that these are consistently great songs. Thile laments the end of the Obama presidency in the bittersweet ballad “Stanley Ann,” mocks the echo chambers of social media on “Feedback Loop,” and twits Trump and fake news on the bouncy “Falsetto.” Produced in the studio with Thile playing most of the instruments, the arrangements are gorgeous, layered, and precise, while the playing and singing retain the playfulness and spontaneity of their original context. Look for Thile to trot out many of these compositions when he arrives at Campbell Hall for his upcoming UCSB Arts & Lectures concert on Sunday, January 7, at 7 p.m. See artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.