With our latest concert release, the first thing you're bound to notice is Thao Nguyen
, a spirited musician sicking erratic, electric scratches into her surely beaten-all-to-hell hollow body guitar. It, along with her exotic coo coo cachoos into the microphone, are but one vital vessel the talented songwriter employs to carry her intense, personal narratives. The other is her body.
Performing at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia last November, Thao struts a pair of restless legs, sways her music-minded hips, and throws the rest of her body into a general mess of hair and limbs whenever the moment presents itself. Here, Thao's songs (pulled from Know Better Learn Faster
, We Brave Bee Stings & All
, and Like the Linen
) inhabit her, own her, and with the enthusiastic assistance of her backing band The Get Down Stay Down, whisk her to another place all together when she performs. Those in attendance? They were piled into an old church basement in downtown Philadelphia. But Thao and the Get Down Stay Down
...to be honest, I'm not quite sure where their muse escorted them.
All of which makes for an electrifying performance experience. Over the course of this concert, the band whisks their audience away on an unpredictable, careening, joy ride, chock full of impromptu jams sessions, alternate album takes, occasional theatrics, and a whole host of special guests. It's an almighty type of performance to be sure, but hey...that's probably why we journeyed to a church to film it. - David Pitz
The album is named 'Know Better Learn Faster' because you can't, explains Thao. By the time you realize you should, it's too late. And I enjoy the predicament and the totally devastating, unfunny humor of that.
Thao and the ever-versatile Get Down Stay Down (Adam Thompson on bass, keys and additional guitar, and Willis Thompson on drums and percussion) return with the follow up to their critically lauded and riotously applauded previous album, We Brave Bee Stings and All, the breakout success and best-selling record of 2008 for Kill Rock Stars. With super-producer and friend Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Bill Frisell, Spoon) again at the helm, Know Better Learn Faster perfectly captures the band as their more mature, tastefully raucous, tastefully subdued and musically adventurous selves. Honed, trimmed and tightened over the last year and a half of constant touring, the now-trio delivers Thao's cleverly crafted and emotionally evocative songs with vibrant, innovative instrumentation, incredible energy and a still-acutely-solid sense of what sounds good. The new batch of songs spans all genres and influences, all the while staying faithful to their distinct style, sharp wit, and the infectious and enamoring exuberance of their renowned live shows.
But the band can be serious too. Know Better Learn Faster is in many ways a boisterous, frenzied, and resigned break-up record, and with that territory comes a few songs wherein Thao does not employ her trademark method of juxtaposing brighter melodies with melancholic content. A few of these are just straightforwardly sad. Sometimes there's not much room to mince words and music when you feel like shit, she says.
The diverse and wide-ranging songwriting only helps to showcase the trio's formidable musicianship: all members have stepped up and expanded their repertoires to fill out the trio's sound. To further help the cause, the band was thrilled and humbled to enlist album guests Andrew Bird, Eric Earley of Blitzen Trapper, Laura Veirs, Horse Feathers, Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, Jenny Conlee of The Decemberists, and close friend and new 4AD artist Tune-Yards.
Know Better Learn Faster is a deeply felt, honestly rendered audit of the end of one or any number of relationships. Thao says: We are thankful for the opportunity to have explored and then purged all crippling tensions and anxiety inherent in such dramas and hope you enjoy the scrappy by-product.