I Can See Your Roots When You Sing
Before recording We the Common, Asian-American indie-rocker Thao Nguyen’s third full-length album with her San Fran-based band Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, she decided to act like a “real live person” for a while, taking time to learn how to be a better person, and also spending time with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. While incredibly cute and charming, We the Common delves into something deeper than quirky indie rock and breakup songs.
The first released single “Holy Roller” demonstrates this outlook lyrically: “I’ve got mouths to feed to and thoughts to think through / I’ve got words to keep and lies to make true / Holy roller roll over me / I’m looking for something else to see.” And while the twelve songs on the album go by quickly—no song goes for more than three and a half minutes—none leave out the subjects of hopefulness, giving, and the feeling that you could do more, do better.
Just about every song features Nguyen’s unique vocals and a crisp-sounding acoustic guitar, including opener “We the Common [For Valerie Bolden],” a song about a woman Nguyen visited in a state prison. But there are a couple songs that deviate from this. “City” is one of the heavier songs on the album, due to a lot of percussion and distorted electric guitar the whole time. And “Move,” which might be the best song on the album, is a loud rock-and-roll song that spirals into a frenzy of instruments while Nguyen’s distorted vocals shout, “Oh, to be free!”
In the end, Nguyen is making music because it’s what she believes she does best, and it’s what she’ll continue to do despite what writers and critics ever have to say. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.