If ever there was a paradox in music Thao with The Get Down
Stay Down’s second full-length album Know
Better Learn Faster would be it. An admittedly impossible title, Know Better is a record of failed
relationships and self-reflection set against the backdrop of ironically
optimistic indie pop.
With a Karen O-like croon, Thao guides the listener with the
help of her backing band, The Get Down Stay Down, and musical guests including
Andrew Bird, Eric Earley (Blitzen Trapper), and Tune-Yards. Alternating between New Orleans’
funeral flamboyancy and stripped down devastation, “The Clap” is the perfect
opener for an album where the tone of the lyrics and the music itself are
constantly pitted against each other.
Designed to distract from the emotional wreckage with catchy
pleading lyrics of “Body” (“What am I, just a body in your bed? / Won’t you reach
for that body in your bed?”) are paired with flamboyant horns and hand claps. “Goodbye
Good luck” chronicles a hopeless relationship with bouncy percussion and enthusiastic
It is only through the breathy intimacy of “But What of
Strangers” and the quiet regret of “Oh. No.” that the album slows down and Thao
reveals herself. Gone are the instrumental distractions and comfort of her backup
voices in exchange for soft, imperfect confessions that feel almost too
“Sad people dance, too” Thao says quietly, before the beat
picks up on the closing track “Easy” and the cheerful vocals start chiming.
Amidst all of the regrets, the “sad sex” and the failings, this is an album of
perseverance. For Thao with The Get Down Stay Down, there’s light through that
tunnel ahead and they’re fighting damn hard to get there.