Thao Nguyen is one of the last decade’s most notable songwriters. With incredible records and anthemic songs, Ngyuen has created some truly special music. It’s been four years since her last record with Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, the Merrill Garbus-produced A Man Alive. Four years is a long time, but great records take time. Finally, Nguyen’s fifth record, Temple, was released last week on Ribbon Music. While her other records are very personal and about family, none is more personal than Temple.
Temple kicks off with its title track, which is a groovy affair underscored by a kick-ass bass line that describes war-torn Vietnam. That’s followed up with “Phenom”, whose methodical pace creates a surreal vibe. The hip-hop influenced “Lion On The Hunt” features a heavenly beat, while “Pure Cinema” is straightforward indie rock but it sounds so good. Meanwhile, “Marauders” paints a lush soundscape with some astonishing synth and harmonies.
“How Could I” is a personal track, on which Nguyen’s voice cuts through a driving drum beat before the tune turns into a rocker by the end. A stumbling drum beat guides the darkly “Disclaim”. It’s very simple but packs Temple’s hardest punch. On the super groovy “Rational Animal”, Nguyen reflects on her past and the lessons she’s learned along the way.
Temple’s penultimate track, “I’ve Got Something”, is a very stripped-down song, featuring mostly guitar, Nguyen’s vulnerable voice, and some harmonies. Despite its simplicity, the outcome is stunning. The song builds up quite nicely into the closer, “Marrow”, which is a huge track. There’s so much going on, but it is the perfect ending to Temple.
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down continue to be one of the most consistent bands out there with Temple. It’s a personal record, going places that her previous records did not. At the same time, the album retains Nguyen’s incomparable ability to create an atmosphere through her music. Whether she’s singing about her family, sexuality, heritage, or society, it’s always engaging and intelligent. Temple was well worth the wait.
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down are: Thao Nguyen, Adam Thompson, Johanna Kunin, Jason Slota, and Charlie Glenn.
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