Thao & The Get Down Stay Down take free-spirited approach to A Man Alive

Man AliveI bet Merill Garbus is an absolute riot in the studio. It certainly sounds like everyone's having a blast on A Man Alive, the 6th album from Thao & The Get Down Stay Down that seems to think it's a debut, produced by the indefatigable genius behind tUnE-yArDs. At one point on "Fool Forever" it sounds like someone's drumming on dustbin lids, and frankly, you wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they were. It's just the kind of free-spirited, Californian approach to songwriting that this lot deal in.

If the album feels like a house party jam, it appears to have been a conscious decision by bandleader Thao Nguyen: "I wanted A Man Alive to be beat- and bass-driven - rather than guitar-based - extending and elaborating upon the hip-hop influences of the previous record," she explained recently. "A Man Alive is more instrumental, more riff- and loop-centric, and has more manipulated sounds." Nowhere is that creative process clearer than on lead single "Nobody Dies", an unreasonably fun song about strolling through life like it's going to last forever, built around a bulldozing bass riff and Thao's charmingly off-kilter vocals. Where guitars do make an appearance on the album, it's usually the kind of sonic tazers that St. Vincent's known to deploy - half melodic, half percussive disruptor.

It's certainly an eclectic collection of songs, which also shouldn't come as a shock from a band who opened for Rilo Kiley and Xiu Xiu in the same year, without either slot seeming too unlikely. While Thao and co.'s songs mostly follow the same commandment - thou shalt see how much of a racket can be made without ruining the song entirely - there are some welcome breathers. "The Evening" is a wholly irresistible toe-tapper, while "Guts" delivers a soul performance of such accomplishment that it could happily be replicated across an entire album.

Nonetheless, Thao remains at her best when she's kicking loose. The aforementioned "Fool Forever" builds around a theatrical chant of "Oh no!" until you almost burst out laughing, swept up by her love of the ridiculous. Best of all is "Meticulous Bird", a track that comes spring-loaded with the kind of beat that would be perfectly at home on an RJD2 cut, as well as her greatest sing-shout chorus yet: "Oh my god, you didn't know I get ferocious?! Oh my god! Oh my god!" she repeats over and over, until you want to stand up and apologise. I'm really sorry Thao. You are ridiculously ferocious, and I see that now. You've proved that beyond doubt.

Release: 4th March 2016, Ribbon Music

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  1. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive | Loud and Bright - 02/03/2016

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