REVIEW: Thao w. the Get Down Stay Down - "Know Better Learn Faster"

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On Thao's 2008 LP, We Brave Bee Stings and All, there was invincibility. Even the title track's suggested this: "we brave bee stings and all / we don't dive we cannonball." Thao's ferociousness, her untireability, the refusing to duck to geography, travel, age, riddles the album. It's not a middle finger but a statement of fact. We're going to make it through.

A year later, with Know Better Learn Faster, the verve is still there, but Thao's tune has changed quite a bit. The lyrical content of the album is a continual challenge to the listener from the buoyant but bluesy chorus of "When We Swam": "Bring your hips to me" to the swoon of her intro to "Easy": "Sad people dance too." Even the sound of the album has become more intricate, fuller, deeper, more instruments, more melodies, more more.

What drives us along, though is the same old Thao -- a plaintive demand backboned by a thumping rhythm section. It's enough to make you wanna cry and dance and do fucked up things all at once. The title track, and heart of the album, is the joyous cry of a failed relationship: "And you need me to be better than me / And you need me to do better than you." In Thao's songs, no one seems to ever get quite what they want from one another. What we're left with is the immeasurable power of want.

And the best part about want is that it can draw you to the dancefloor again and again. As this album does. It's almost impossible to listen to sitting down. "Body" is the beautiful beat of fuck buddies, the morning-after waltz of jilted lovers. Too often, we end up wanting just one emotion out of a song out of an album, but like a great actor Thao can play more than one emotion at once. A little like life, don't you think? And, as the title suggests, a little impossible. What's wrong with wanting impossibility? It's not invincible, but it's not going to go away anytime soon.


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