Friday, April 22, 2011

Thao with the Get Down Stay Down - We Brave Bee Stings and All

★★★★★ Tracks:
Swimming Pools

Cannonballs into swimming pools. Licks of ice cream. Big kid tables. Bee stings. Bike riding adventures with friends. When Thao isn’t complaining of being dumped, she’s singing of childhood nostalgia. She compliments those lyrics with a high-pitched, somewhat off-key vocal style, further embedding those school day images in to your head as you listen. Thao’s guitar skills are by no means childish though; she writes chord progressions that sound like they come from a blues and jazz aficionado, and combines those chords with intricate finger picking, as her band expertly crafts leads and rhythms to accompany the acoustic melodies. Electric guitars, brass, percussion, bass, and banjos can all be heard here, sometimes in the span of one song. The contrasting mix of childish lyricism and masterful musicianship results in to a calculated playfulness, and it gives Thao her distinction amongst the plethora of other modern day folk-rocekrs. I played the shit out of We Brave Bee Stings and All in the Spring of ‘08, but after a few play-thrus three years later, it’s lost a bit of its luster. Thao’s voice can teeter on annoying occasionally, and her lyrics are a little too syrupy to digest in large doses. Still, there are a couple of tracks I’ll always come back to; the bluegrassy “Swimming Pools” is the highlight but “Geography” is a close second, where a beautiful melody accompanies lyrics focusing on emotional distance.

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