A Man Alive, the fourth studio album from Thao And The Get Down Stay Down sees the band take their sound in a much more experimental route, what could easily have sounded crass is instead perfectly pitched at a pop scene dying for new lifeblood.
Following the success of 2013’s We The Common, which showed the world just how commanding a talent Thao Nguyen was she’s gone away and made a record which is fiercely captivating. It’s rich in everyway, at it’s best it’s a melting pot of carnivalesque beats and at its simplest it’s a showcase of Nguyen’s folky origins (‘Give Me Peace’).
Produced by Tune Yards Merryl Garbus, her stamp is all over this, it’s well polished with every beat of every loop coming through with biting clarity. That’s not to take anything from Nguyen who wrote all these tracks herself. Garbus helped to tease the experimental nature out of Nguyen and her band, who relish the opportunity to be so free.
This is as beat driven as an album gets, the basslines on tracks like ‘Astonished Man’ and ‘Nobody Dies’ positively kick you off your chair and onto the dancefloor. The instrumental nature of this record is thrilling, there’s synthy loops on ‘Slash/Burn’, hand claps, sing-alongs and ‘Meticulous Bird’ even sees Nguyen rapping – well almost. For all of this A Man Alive manages to stay positively pop. It’s a testament to Nguyen’s song writing prowess that she can fit such a frenzy of sound into a 3 minute pop song like ‘Nobody Dies’.
Optimism shines through these tracks as if somebody is stood above them pouring glittery rainbows down, it’s a party so fun you’re scared to attend, which will undoubtedly only make their live shows even better. Underneath all this is the heartfelt lyrics about Nguyen’s father, who left when she was young: “I got the guts, I don’t need my blood”. The raw energy goes hand in hand with the raw content: “Fight for me in the modern day, half of all my blood and vein.”
A Man Alive is a record jammed with manipulated beats, but it doesn’t need to manipulate its listener, you will already be fully on board. It transcends genre and time and is hope for a pop scene dominated by a few lacklustre individuals.
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