Thao & the Get Down Stay Down’s self-produced Temple is perhaps the band’s most visceral offering to date with its all-encompassing performance art and poetic verses that are both stark and concrete.
Frontwoman Thao Nguyen’s voice is a powerful instrument, of which we hear many shimmering facets; belting or talking, she is a siren over the backing rock ensemble, her own guitar ringing out with purpose.
The singles are so striking, it’s hard not to be blinded for at least a moment by the electrifying entrance to “Temple” with its vibrant bassline and drums that surmount high emotions.
The album is bold without relying on being loud, but it’s not afraid to be. The grooviness is underlined by every syllable, making music out of every word, with a tragicomic story in each song. The punchy lyrics are punctuated by kicks, snares, and funky basslines.
Keys and synths bring in jazzy, modal harmonies and distorted guitars establish the tone. TGDSD devise a chromatic travelogue of home, family and self. They are not tempted by any industry glory and remain cynical, theatrically embodying characters and desires.
The band’s penchant for delicately choreographed and cinematic music videos has taken no exception during quarantine. The video for single “Phenom” was made using Zoom and manages to be stunning. “Pure Cinema” was also made remotely with clips of the band playing stitched together and projected on sheets around Nguyen.
Temple is contemplative and roused by concepts of identity and transformation. As “Phenom” declares, “I am erupting / don’t interrupt it.”