thao and the get down stay downs know better learn faster
  • TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2009

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Know Better Learn Faster is Thao Nguyen's follow up album to 2008's We Brave Bee Stings and All, with the addition of her band The Get Down Stay Downs, which consists of Adam Thompson on bass/guitar/keys and Willis Thompson on drums (no relation by the way). While keeping with the Thao's characteristic bright and raucous sound, the new album shows definite signs of maturity and boasts a few new battle wounds (a la written post relationship). But this isn't your typical break up album, Thao writes from neither the point of view of the cynical lover scorned or with stoic independent ambivalence. Instead, Know Better Learn Faster is a celebration of the experience of heartbreak in its entirety, from start to finish. Before the closing track "Easy" Thao whispers "sad people dance too" which sums up the album's attitude pretty accurately. Produced by close friend and super producer, Tucker Martine who has worked with the likes of The Decemberists, The Long Winters, and Sufjan Stevens, Know Better Learn Faster drops via Kill Rock Stars October 13.

The title track "Know Better Learn Faster" is a pretty super single and a great introduction to album's celebratory melancholic mind-set. The track opens delicately with soft guitar and strings but quickly picks up with Thao's declaration "I disarm you in the morning/ but I was up in arms all night" and continues the delicate tug of war theme with varying tempo, bursting instrumentals, and lyrical upheaval "I need you to be better than me/ and you need me to do better than you". Other tracks like "Body" and "Goodbye Good Luck", and "When We Swam" inhabit the same unpredictable air, ruffled with cheerful horns and cymbals, bouncy drums, and double claps while underlining stories of disappointment and shortcomings in love.

The album slows down with songs like "The Give", "Oh. No.", and "But What of Strangers", that still boasts Thao's understated wit and sharp melodies, but lose the tension of the more up tempo tracks. The album art is a perfect representation vis a vis the epicenter of the record: Thao showered with confetti, surrounded by cheering party go-ers, gearing up to bust open a gigantic heart pinata as she peeks mischievously from her blindfold. All in all, Know Better Learn Faster considers all the little details of love with unrefined joy, giddy melancholy, and an exuberant devastation that smiles willingly at the heartrending irrelevance of it all. -amelia trask

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