Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – We the Common (Music Review)

We the Common cover

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – We the Common

Thao Nguyen has a voice that mixes simple honesty with a winking cleverness. With stripped down instrumentation and a slight reverb added to her singing, it’s attention-grabbing. Nguyen’s utter confidence and uncomplicated voice make her into an indie success story. However, on We the Common, performing as Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, she rarely sticks to that basic winning formula.

Admittedly, it would get a little repetitive if she never did more than that. The epitome of the simple folksy style that pulled me in is “Kindness Be Conceived”, a twee duet with Joanna Newsom. It’s hooky and adorable, but no one would want to listen to variations on that for a forty minutes. The best model for her would be the opening track, “We the Common (For Valerie Bolden)”. It starts and ends with Nguyen on her guitar, alternately representing a vulnerable woman and a united people (the song apparently inspired by the story of someone she met when visiting a woman’s prison). In the middle, the band joins her with a slowly building beat and a wall of sound to fortify the conviction that she presents. I want to hear more songs like that.

Otherwise, the really compelling moments come and go throughout the tracks. The Get Down Stay Down are talented and versatile, but so varied that the album has no consistency beyond Nguyen’s voice. (The band is perhaps nothing more than a rotating cast brought in to fulfill her vision, as fourteen other performers are credited, not counting the ones who contribute only background vocals.) There’s no commonality between the slow-as-molasses “Clouds For Brains” and the clanking mechanical soundscape of “City”. Elsewhere, some songs are bouncy and poppy, while others throw in a soulful saxophone or even organ. The vocals are intriguing in almost every case, and even most of the weaker songs would make me curious about the rest of the album if I heard them in isolation. Put together, though, the album only sporadically lives up to the potential that the pieces promise.

Grade: B-

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: