Sunday, October 25, 2009

Know Better Learn Faster

I feel like I've been a bit light on the music side of this blog for a while, so I vow to make a better effort at it. That's why I started this thing in the first place, so.

Thao Nguyen's new record is a great place to start. I sort of stumbled onto her first one by accident, and it was indeed a grower, the jittery folky rhythms, her strained and odd voice, the childishly insightful lyrics all brought me back for repeated listens and, in the end, big payoffs.

Know Better Learn Faster, though I wouldn't have said it on first listen, might even be better. A few days ago I'd have said it was good, but it didn't have any immediate killers like "Beat" or "Bag of Hammers," both great singles off the first record (We Brave Bee Stings and All).

But then I listened some more, and it's quite possible that the title track "Know Better Learn Faster" is her best song ever. The lyrics are urgent and meaningful if sparse, the repeated calls to do what the title says, for them to be "better than me" and me to do "better than you" seem to speak to the experience of advancing generations in America in a way that many of us fail to consider.

There are tons of gems to be mined from these songs, from the opening oddness of "Clap" and jangle of "Cool Yourself" to the grrr of "Fixed It!" and the wistfulness of ""The Give." And the more you listen, the better it gets. Her band, the Get Down Stay Down, are solid here, too, bringing more of the energy and force of the live show to this record.

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