If it’s possible for music to be spiritual without being religious, then Thao Nguyen and the Get Up Stay Down have accomplished that feat. “We Brave Bee Stings and All” is a triumph. The music fairly simple, bordering on bubble-gum pop, made all the more sweet by Thao Nguyen’s delightful vocals. But beneath the crispy marshmallow façade are deceptively deep lyrics. Lines are thrown about like towels and shirts by the side of a summer pool . . . “I reached high, high, high/As I high as I was able/Such a small small kid/At the big kids table” . . . “I am going away, but not away from you/I have found the difference between the two” . . . "We brave bee stings and all/We don't dive we cannonball/We splash our eyes full of chemicals/Just so there's none left for little girls." It’s easy to write off the lyrics as imagery to create feeling rather than meaning, like so many Paul Simon songs, but a closer listen indicate pursuit of Eastern faith: Eleven songs about the meaning of spirituality and ones relationship with a higher power, clocking in at just over a half hour, this album is perfect. There’s no filler, no meaningless segues, not a single note or lyric out of place. Finger cymbals and light banjo strumming that would sound hokey in the hands of a less talented singer-songwriter here create a soft place where Thao’s fascinating, whimsical, and thought-provoking lyrics can rest comfortably, without distraction.
And to top it all off, she’s from my place of residence: Arlington, Va.
For fans of: Belle and Sebastian; Laura Veirs.
If you can find the vinyl version, do it. It’s got a cover of Smoky Robinson’s "You Really Got Hold On Me." Or, just cop that off eMusic.
Beat (Health, Life, and Fire)
Bag of Hammers
Turn Turn Turn (Byrds)-Belle & Sebastian
Karma Police-Citizen Cope