Beat (Health, Life, and Fire)
Bag of Hammers
For the first verses of “Beat (Health, Life, and Fire)” I was nearly convinced that Shannon Hoon was actually alive and posing as this Thao Nguyen character. The “Oh no!” at about the 50 second mark of the song convinced me completely and I was ready to race home to check Pitchfork to see the announcement that the whole Shannon Hoon death thing was a big hoax and that he had written and performed this amazing album.
Sometimes, driving home after a long day of work, I lose my mind.
But the comparison is not completely unfounded. Like Hoon, she’s able to bend her notes while changing volume from a near shout to a near whisper. Her voice is versatile and has just enough rasp to rescue her words from seeming a bit twee and enough easy melody to lighten any burden her listeners might be carrying.
All of the songs concern the singer deeply. They are conversations over the phone, over a beer, or over coffee and cigarettes, only we don’t get the other side of the conversation. And Thao is assisted by a killer back-up band full of multi-instrumentalists to make music that’s sweet as sugar, no matter how tart the her truths may be.
From the insistent rush of “Beat” to the beatbox opening of the saucy “Bag of Hammers” or the sympathetically flowing “Yes, Soon and Soon” to the Billy Preston Let it Be-era Fender Rhodes organ stylings of “Geography”, folk pop doesn’t get much better than this pleasant and thoughtful album about relationships good and bad, healthy and broken, nourishing and sickly.
Check out Thao’s Daytrotter session here.
–Posted by Scotter