Bruises, bumps, scrapes, and bee stings; on her Kill Rock Stars debut, Virginian born songstress Thao braves a bundle when it comes to the rocky ways of twenty something romance. Over the course of We Brave Bee Stings And All, Thao and The Get Down Stay Down traverse a ton of tumultuous terrain. The footing is never sure, and some times (alright, most times) she takes a dive. But resilient and hell bent on feeling something (see those goose bumps on the cover? That is Thao, an emotional machine, feeling something) Thao makes her way down twisted, unsure paths, sprinting blindfolded, plastered smile, all the way.
There is an ordinary elegance in Thao’s coy, “golly gee” delivery - like she wants to keep the subjects of her folk pop poetry guessing. But lines like “I don’t know, what I don’t know” (“Geography”), seeped in inner dialogue’s endless head game, ironically seem to make Thao the last one waiting to see what comes next. Such confusion never leads anywhere worth going. On “Feed Asleep”, Thao shows off her inability to walk a way from a no good, sumofabitch…though it certainly does swing and sway with some old time brass blare and a bit of foot stomping blues. Admitting on upbeat sing-along “Fear and Convenience”, “I have never glimpsed romance”, one gets the idea that poor Thao puts plenty in, yet gets so little back in return. And then there is closer “We Go” – the sad conclusion to it all. Singing “We are not so bad” might read like a statement, but in this, it certainly sounds more like a question.
In the end, Thao’s woes hit hard, mostly because she sounds as if she shouldn’t have to put up with them. On record her songs are confident and hip. Like Leslie Feist, Thao’s wounded warrior is still one cool, charismatic cat. And yet her struggle is ultimately what defines We Brave Bee Stings And All. Whether that makes one feel good about them self (i.e. “everyone has these problems, not just me”), or hopeless (as in “if she can’t get it right, what chance do any of us have?”)…Well, that all depends who sits on the other side of this record. – David Pitz