Album: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down, Know Better Learn Faster (Kill Rock Stars)

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The Independent Culture

Thao Nguyen acquired many approving notices and fans with 2008's We Brave Bee Stings And All, and, while this follow-up has its moments of undeniable charm, there comes a point when her plaintive anti-folk deadpan slips over from appealingly quirky into irritatingly affected.

Producer Tucker Martine has applied a veneer of professional gloss to The Get Down Stay Down's self-consciously lo-fi approach, lifting the chipper piano and guitar arrangement of "Cool Yourself" with chirpy horn stabs, and spiking the melody of "The Give" with slightly astringent strings. "Cool Yourself" is typical of the way the album as a whole treats romantic disillusion and dissolution with a sort of cavalier cheerfulness – elsewhere, lines like "I disown you in the morning" and rhetorical queries such as "What am I? Just a body in your bath?" and "What gives? Give it to me" demonstrate her rejection of the standard emotional tropes usually exercised by the heartbroken. The title-track is the best thing here, conveying in two lines as much as one needs to know about the crumbling relationship: "I need you to be better than me/And you need me to do everything for you".

Download this Know Better, Learn Faster; Cool Yourself; When We Swam; Easy

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