Thao with the Get Down Stay Down
“If this is how you want it / Okay okay,” moans a weary Thao Nguyen over a galloping barn-floor stomp introducing the new Know Better Learn Faster. At first listen, it’s a huge departure for Nguyen, but she’s just teasing us. Before long, the Virginia native and her two-man backing band, the Get Down Stay Down, are swimming in the same effervescent pop that carried the spunky singer’s Kill Rock Stars debut last year. Only now her once-carefree indie has taken a dark detour.
Nguyen’s newly single and pissed, and if the bad vibes aren’t apparent in the lyrics, the album cover—picturing the songwriter having just gone to bat against a heart-shaped piñata—ought to spell it out.
“What am I / Just a body in your bed?” asks Nguyen on “Body,” a funky, take-no-shit shuffle spiked with punchy brass. While a sad streak runs through Know Better, it’s the perfect story line for her swooning voice—sweet and tangy, like molasses. Heartache may anchor the album, but it can’t slow down Nguyen’s rollicking bounce.
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down plays the Empty Bottle Friday 30.