Record review: Thao & the Get Down Stay Down – We The Common (2013 LP)

San Francisco songstress Thao Nguyen allegedly began learning to sing and play guitar while working at her mother’s laundromat as a twelve year old. Sixteen years of gigging experience and three albums later, and the multi-talented singer/guitarist is a confident and accomplished frontwoman in a band that not only has one of the best monikers around, but has put together an appealing and eclectic set of songs on We The Common. Straight-up ’60s-style pop mashes with ’70s soul, ’80s hip-hop, and ’90s dance to make a fresh and fun album with a socially-conscious heart, with Nguyen’s engaging voice and witty and cutting lyrics at the centre of everything. Equal parts St. Vincent, Kim Deal, and Beck Hanson, Nguyen explores themes from penal incarceration, feminism, and social equality with a boundless energy and inventiveness. Sprightly opener ‘We The Common (For Valerie Bolden)’ recalls Nguyen’s time doing volunteer work with women prisoners, while the funky ‘City’ sounds like a female-fronted Red Hot Chili Peppers circa 1994, and folkie Joanna Newsom pops up on the deft duet ‘Kindness Be Conceived’. New single ‘Holy Roller’ is a catchy, finger-pickin’ pop song that benefits from John Congleton’s (The Walkmen, Black Angels, Modest Mouse) production, which is crisp and clean throughout. Unconventional and charming, We The Common is an experimental approach to pop music that will see Thao Nguyen getting under your skin and staying there. (Ribbon Music)

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