Thao With The Get Down Stay Down - Know Better, Learn Faster
(Kill Rock Stars)
Someone once described Thao Nguyen as ‘like Sufjan Steven’s cute little sister’. She could also probably pass for a bouncier, chirpier cousin of Cat Power, or a more playful, joke-cracking relative of Natasha ‘Bat For Lashes’ Khan.
Her country-flavoured indie-pop has been gathering fans since her 2008 album We Brave Bee Stings and All, which was full of quirky charm, and included the sunny ukelele hit, ‘Bag of Hammers’ (a former List Single of the Fortnight.)
This follow-up contains just as much sense of humour, and the same warm flirtiness running through her lyrics, but the Vietnamese-American songwriter, who has toured with Rilo Kiley, Xiu Xiu and Vampire Weekend in the past very busy two years, stops things from getting too tooth-rottingly sweet with a more mature view of the world this time around. ‘The album is called Know Better, Learn Faster because you can’t,’ says the singer. ‘By the time you realise you should, it’s too late. I enjoy the predicament and the totally devastating, unfunny humour of that.’
The album, 13-tracks of upbeat, anti-love break-up songs, calls in favours from several US indie lovelies – Andrew Bird shows off his whistling skills and virtuoso violin bowing on the title track, Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens) is in charge of production duties and fellow Portland, Oregon resident, Laura Veirs drops in with some guest vocals. Smart, scuzzy, soft and cheeky, depending on the song, she takes an indie-pop look at complicated love and ‘sad sex’ while keeping a smile on her face.