Thao Nguyen: We Brave Bee Stings and All


Thao Nguyen We Brave Bee Stings and All begins and ends like it may be a simple twee pop album. Both songs have a thin, light pop sound that could be mistaken for a novelty. What happens between those two songs, however, is anything but. There is no doubt that a twee influence runs through the album, but there is so much more. Unlike cutesy twee songs, there is real pop substance here. Thao’s voice can be sultry and subtly brooding, which gives the music real substance beneath its pop sheen. The hint of darkness under the bright, shiny surface is the album’s real texture and color.

The Get Down Stay Down is an inconspicuously good band. They run from shades of twee to folk to jazz to reggae to calypso to vaudeville to, most importantly, soul, but all with an understated, low-key performance that makes them both essential and nearly transparent. The instrumentation is thin and the rhythms sparse with only light percussion and a bass line that lives quietly in the background. Even when horns get into the mix, they’re almost unnoticeable, yet their absence would significantly change the song. "Bag of Hammers" is immediately memorable, yet on a second listen, just about every song had found its way into my subconscious. That’s the sign of really good pop music.

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