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Thao Nguyen With the Get Down Stay Down: We Brave Bee Stings and All

Thao Nguyen With the Get Down Stay Down: We Brave Bee Stings and All

Label:Kill Rock Stars
Release Date:2008

By Raymond Cummings | Posted 1/30/2008

"My, my mouth, a confessional cannon/ Run away from me with the most reckless of abandon," Thao Nguyen singsong enunciates on "Geography," nailing every last syllable into the drowsy, ivory-drenched arrangement like a series of railroad spikes. The Washington, D.C., singer/songwriter isn't being totally forthright; her lyrics have the paradoxical effect of coming across as achingly sincere, maddeningly general, and tastily obtuse all at once. Emotional and physical anguish commingle with sub-Malkmusian wordplay as the band's joyous, hooks-out rapport washes the pain away. Nguyen's voice coolly jet-skis through this mix, a levelheaded, slightly scruffy heir to Suzanne Vega and Mirah.

In other words, Nguyen's Kill Rock Stars debut, We Brave Bee Stings and All, flashes adversity a grin then dreams up another indie-pop barnburner. "Bag of Hammers" is, at its core, a plea from one lover to another to stick things out, but the tune is so darn bright and bubbly-an anthemic Hawaiian treat-that it's easy to forget that there's anything at stake. "Fear and Convenience" tosses out the same question again and again-"Did he hurt you/ in a new way?"-yet the song's elastic bounce, handclap gulches, and brass infusions act as kinetic distractions. Nguyen's more abstract jaunts number among the album's most rewind-friendly moments: see rambling, banjo-battlin' "Swimming Pools" or "Beat," a stirring compound of furious acoustic guitars, military drum rolls, and smeared, stretched metaphors. Bee Stings reeks of some manner of triumph, even though parsing what sort of triumph is probably less important than giving its short running time just one last go.

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