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Thao with the Get Down Stay Down – Know Better Learn Faster

Released on Kill Rock Stars, 10/13/09

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Why do breakup albums carry such weight and retain such presence? Are they merely a distraction or do they provide that much-needed relation that proves to be so hard to hear in standard discussion? Within the solitary experience of musical exploration, these albums become personalized journeys through our own struggle.

Feeling gloomy on this misleadingly bright day, I was surprised to discover that the latest album I have been listening to on repeat by Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, Know Better Learn Faster, is a breakup album.

I had not yet read the lyrics or the glowing reviews and press surrounding the release. I was simply enjoying the album for what I took it to be: straightforward, catchy, subtle and smart, with an edge that is smoothed over by the river-like flow of lead singer Thao Nguyen’s voice.

The album sounds downright celebratory and gives the feel of a straight up ear party in your head. Songs like “Cool Yourself”, “Trouble Was For”, and “Burn You Up” are almost impossible not to tap your feet to. So altogether unbeatably hypnotizing is the majority of Know Better Learn Faster, it makes it easy for listeners to step outside of themselves and treat this album as one that transcends the typical stigma of breakup albums.

We are not forced to wallow unless we truly feel the need to. We can celebrate this art of creation, take the gentle guidance provided by such a feat and sob into our pillows tomorrow. Or, failing that, we can listen closely to the words, wonder at their wisdom and appreciate a good breakup album when we hear one. Bravo.