Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: “We The Common (For Valerie Bolden)”

For over a year, Thao Nguyen took a much-needed break from touring and recording. Since 2005, she’s been steadily winning over fans by getting her name out everywhere, through her band the Get Down Stay Down and by collaborating with the likes of Laura Veirs and Andrew Bird. In 2011, Nguyen worked with folk artist Mirah for Thao + Mirah, a critically-acclaimed album of originals that was produced by Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs.

Though she obviously feeds off this collaborative spirit, Nguyen is a singular talent in her own right. She’s the star of We Brave Bee Stings And All, the album she debuted with in 2008 with the Get Down Stay Down. While the band mixes folk, pop, and even a little punk, Nguyen does cartwheels with her unique voice. Know Better Learn Faster, released the following year, distilled her sound even better and caught the attention of national outlets. Throw in criss-crossing American tours and rousin performances and you have the making of a breakout artist.

But Nguyen needed that time off too. Speaking about this respite, she stated, “In this year I started really trying to be a part of the community I live in and the family I was born into.” On February 5, she’ll release album number three with the Get Down Stay Down, titled We The Common. Recorded with John Congleton–who’s made his name by producing classic records by St. Vincent, the Walkmen, Bill Callahan, and Explosions in the Sky–We The Common finds Nguyen reinvigorated. The title track is spiky and restless, starting out with simple banjo before opening up into a full-screen explosion of empowerment–political, emotional, or otherwise. It’s a neat trick, and it further solidifies Nguyen as a voice to be reckoned with.

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