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CD of The Week

Week of 6/01/20

    Thao & The Get Down Stay Down - Temple (Ribbon)

    After a four-year hiatus, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down return with their fifth studio album Temple. Of these five records, Temple is the first one to be produced in-house by singer Thao Nguyen, along with bassist Adam Thompson. Playing things this close to the chest lends the material to be closer to the beating heart of its main creative force. This, in turn, spawns an album that proudly flaunts its diversity and celebrates identity, both personally and creatively.

    The title track that kicks off the album is about the journey and struggle of Nguyen's mother, a Vietnamese refuge. Starting off with a rock-n-roll guitar riff that is soon complemented by a hip-hop bass/drum combo, it's an interesting story told from the perspective of the daughter. Even more prescient though is the chorus. "I lost my city in the light of day/Thick smoke, helicopter blades," sings Nguyen. Easy enough to connect the dots on the relevance now more than ever of those words.

    Themes and grooves remain heavy well into songs like "Phenom" and "Lion on the Hunt." The former continues to tackle injustice and is straightforward with its feelings on classism, while the latter is a reflection on the intent of fame and the platform it gives those lucky enough to achieve some level of it. But don't let these weighty subjects distract from the superb instrumentation, particularly the percussion.

    What's most impressive about the album is the seemingly effortless blend of sounds and genres. A definite hallmark of Thao & the Get Down Stay Down's sound has always been that interplay and they continue to reach new heights on Temple. "Disclaim" is a jazz-fusion indie-hip-hop tune, "Marauders" is a synth-heavy bittersweet love song, and "How Could I" is straight-up indie rock with a driving rhythm section and catchy melodies.

    These zig-zag aspirations are peppered throughout the album, something that really keeps the listener engaged throughout Temple'srather brief 37-minute run time. And while the ambitions are at times greater than the result, there is still something to be admired for swinging for the fences anyway.
    Review by Keith Obaza

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