20 Watts

Emerging Artists, Week 6: Thao Nguyen by 20watts
April 2, 2008, 2:33 am
Filed under: Emerging Artists | Tags: ,

I first heard Thao Nguyen’s music on the arts and culture radio program Studio 360. Nguyen spoke about growing up the daughter of a Vietnamese immigrant, and I was struck both by her music and by her insight and endearing personality. Nguyen spent much of her childhood working in her mother’s laundromat, where she also used the time to teach herself guitar.
Now, Nguyen has a record deal with Kill Rock Stars and a new album, We Brave Bee Stings and All, that shows off her talent for blending many genres while maintaining a heartfelt pop sound. On this album, Nguyen adds the Virginia-based band, The Get Down Stay Down, which allows her to veer into more blues, pop, and country sounds.
“Fear and Convenience,” showcases Nguyen’s refined, sweet voice and talents on the guitar. Unlike Joanna Newsom and other similar artists, whose elf-like vocals take a couple of listens to appreciate, Nguyen’s vocals are welcoming right away. It sounds like those days spent at the laundromat paid off.
Another standout track from her latest album is “Bag of Hammers” with its catchy melody: “Shake, shake, shake, the frame of this house / Distress the wood, make it shout.” The song is upbeat and accessible – so much so that one might expect to hear it in Starbucks. But the song, like all of Nguyen’s music, has a sincerity that transcends whether or not it’s successful in the mainstream.
Kill Rock Stars likens Nguyen to “Cat Power in cowboy boots.” It’s a hefty comparison that I think Nguyen more than lives up to. She and The Get Down Stay Down are currently on tour with label mates Xiu Xiu, and will tour Europe in May.
– Christina
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