In the same vein of Wednesday’s post about Fiona Apple and artists that don’t sound like anyone else except themselves, I was stoked to see a new record from Thao & the Get Down Stay Down come out last week. Temple is the group’s fifth album and it comes four years removed from their previous release, A Man Alive, which was one of my favorite records in 2016.
The San Francisco-based band fronted by Thao Nguyen remains as vibrantly creative as always, but Nguyen talks openly how it is her and the band’s most personal record to-date. Previously unspoken or ambiguously referenced topics of Nguyen’s family, her sexuality, gender politics and norms, and her own personal journey are laid bare in the lyrics. Perhaps because it’s new lyrical territory for the band and/or that the words are just that skillfully crafted, but the record feels intimate from the jump and absolutely authentic.
Lyrics aside, it is the band’s distinct indie-pop rock sound that continues to stand out and totally grab me. There are lots of influences (punk, hip-hop, 80s synth tones, garage rock, and Khruangbin-like, Southeast Asian funk beats and range-y guitar riffs), but they all hang together on an accessible, catchy record that offers something new with each track.
Phenom, my personal favorite track, is a great example of Thao &The Get Down Stay Down’s magic. The song blends dissonant chords and a jangly, off-kilter guitar riff with a throbbing bass line and Nguyen’s vocals as instrument (sometimes staccato; sometimes veering up-and-down a minor key scale) to create a completely hypnotic, woozy, unforgettable track — ending with the anthemic, defiant scream against “I am an old phenomenon.”