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We Brave Bee Stings and All

4.3 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

According to Thao Nguyen, she has two talents: her first is she has a knack for beat-boxing and humming at the same time (Rahzel needn't worry about any competition just yet though) and her second, and in her opinion finest, is that she had a capacity to watch so much TV as a kid, she's convinced her personality is made up of several different sitcom characters. Of course Thao, the 23 year Virginia-bred songwriter, is forgetting her unique voice, natural sense for a good melody, and striking lyrics, skillful guitar plucking and her deadly dry sense of humour. Thao's debut for Kill Rock Stars, showcases all these talents and more, proving she's a star in the making.

With her perky strumming guitar, bluegrass tinged banjo, giddy sense of self and uninhibited vulnerability, Thao manages that rare combination of songs that sound happy but are, at times so sad. Whether using an acoustic guitar strummed with a toothbrush or a sharpie pen, or employing keyboards, horns and a full rhythm section with her band The Get Down Stay Down, her songs are always buoyant, littered with catchy riffs and lyrics gripped with intimate details juxtaposed with her cheeky humor. ''My songs reflect my personality as far as shirking the seriousness of things'' says Thao.

Thao's sly and mischievous sense of humour is all over this record, lightening the gravity of her words in the tradition of the very best songwriters, raising the mundane and ordinary to the extraordinary. Her music comes to life during her live performances, where Thao's clever, self-depricating and charming personality shines, surpassed only by her guitar picking skills.

The vinyl version contains two extra tracks: a cover of the Smoky Robinson classic ''You Really Got Hold On Me'' and and a Thao original ''Tallymarks''.

Amazon.com

On Thao Nguyen's second album and first for Kill Rock Stars, the young singer's delightful voice draws you in. She sings in a wispy manner that recalls Sinead O'Connor at bedtime, employing the cottonmouth phrasing of Beth Orton, Chan Marshall (Cat Power), and Jolie Holland to great effect. This is downright happy music with brooding lyrics, an approach that's worked well for Belle and Sebastian and Cardinal. Nguyen and crew have it down pat. Bee Stings has been expertly produced by Tucker Martine, a long-standing collaborator of Laura Veirs. Veirs actually introduced the two, as well as hooking Nguyen up with her label after getting an unsolicited recording in the mail. On Nguyen's MySpace page, she describes her music like this: "Tangles of guitar, knots of singing, threads of beat and thump make a rope fit for hauling the heavy machinery of your day." Who can argue with that? --Mike McGonigal
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (January 29, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Kill Rock Stars
  • ASIN: B000ZOSMYC
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,590 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By WolfAmI! on February 13, 2008
Format: MP3 Music
This is simply a great album. Don't be put off by the one-star review. The reviewer complained about the quality of the recording and songwriting. Listen to the previews of the songs and you can hear there's nothing wrong with the quality of the recording. The simple fact is that some people can't enjoy any music if it's not artificial, over-processed Barbie-pop. This is a very tasteful album with solid performance and solid songwriting. It deserves much more than one star.
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Thao Nguyen's second full-length album has anything a music-lover could ask for: catchy guitar-playing, clever lyrics, and most importantly, feeling. Thao's voice conveys emotion like few other singer-songwriters can. Her backing band, the Get Down Stay Down, add depth and interest to the sound without overwhelming the focal point of the songs - Thao's lyrics and the amazing voice she sings them with. It might take a few listens to figure out what the lyrics are saying, but it feels more like an intriguing mystery to solve than a chore. Is she talking about her childhood? Is it a metaphor for a relationship? What is this "Bag of Hammers" that the second track (and one of the best on the album) is named for? No matter what conclusions you reach, I guarantee that the listening process will be an enjoyable one!
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I've been listening to "Bag of Hammers" over and over again ever since I first heard it in December. Thao does jangly pop in an original way. This is some of the finest new music I've heard in a long, long while. The entire album is a winner.
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My daughter introduced me to Thao Nguyen's music with her first CD a couple of years ago and I am greatly impressed with the growth young Ms. Nguyen shows on this second fine collection of original songs. It's certainly aimed more at the generation of listeners who have made the "Juno" movie soundtrack a bestseller than at people my age, but I find Thao's music extremely personal and original, and the addition of more musicians and an obviously sympathetic producer make this disc a big step forward.

David Dye of Public Radio International's prestigious "World Cafe Live" broadcast sang the praises of Thao Nguyen and her band last week and music critic David Malitz of THE WASHINGTON POST recently wrote that "a refreshing vibrancy permeates Thao Nguyen's splendid sophomore album." My only complaint personally is that the total time of the disc is a bit short, so maybe next time around Ms. Nguyen and her band can relax a bit and stretch out the songs to add a few minutes.

On the other hand, her "less is more" approach works well with a fragile, spare delivery that draws the listener nearer. The songs not only benefit from repeated listenings, they demand as much.
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I just love Thao. She's got beautiful off-beat melodies. Out might take some a while top really appreciate her style, but believe me she's fantastic. Please be sure to check out her other albums. My favorite is "We the Common". Truly beautiful.
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Ah, the power of YouTube. I was cruising the web a few months back and stumbled upon a video of Thao Nguyen singing her then most recent single, the hand-clapping, foot-stomping, beat-boxing BAG OF HAMMERS. I was pleasantly stung. So, after pulling up all of her other videos and giving them a listen, I bought the CD, WE BRAVE BEE STINGS AND ALL. Take my word, this is an album that you will want to listen to from beginning to end. From the opening chords of BEAT (HEALTH, LIFE AND FIRE), to the closing strains of WE GO, Thao's quirky, original voice, offbeat lyrics and bouncy, diversified melodies will grab your attention and keep it. Her Virginia based roots clearly show through her use of banjo, mandolin and other 'folk music' related instruments. People have labeled Thao an "indie-rock" artist. I have no idea what 'indie rock' means. Back in the 1960's we would've called this "folk-rock". But, like many of the great artists of that bygone era, it's dangerous to try and pigeon-hole Thao's style. There's a hint of rock, jazz, bluegrass, traditional folk, Asian undertones, pure Americana, rhythm and blues, Dixie-land jazz, punk and catchy-pop all folded into a recipe of fairly delectable sounds that come out of the musical oven as purely Thao.

On WE BRAVE BEE STING AND ALL, Thao gets fairly introspective and self-deprecating. This is an album, so Thao says, about growing up and owning up to past mistakes and the sins of omission. While it's unusual, at first, to hear downer lyrics coupled with upbeat melodies, in a way it is a healing process. If you can sing away your blues with upbeat melodies and come out of it whole, what's so bad about that?

In BEAT, (HEALTH, LIFE AND FIRE) and FEET ASLEEP, Thao sings about her parents. "Oh, how could they be liars?
Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Thao Nguyen came pretty much out of nowhere with her 2006 debut album "Like the Linen" which was a pleasant introduction to her folk-rock type music. After endless touring now comes Thao's second album.

On "We Brave Bee Stings and All" (11 tracks, 33 min.) Thao and her excellent backing band The Get Down Stay Down expand on the sound of the debut album, with great result. Check out the opener "Beat (Health, Life and Fire)" and even better the second track "Bag of Hammers", which is just bouncy and beautiful. Many of the songs are short, Thao makes her musical (and lyrical) point, and moves on to the next. Other highlights include "Geography", "Fear and Convenience", the best track on the album (which reminds me of somehow of John Mayer's "Why Georgia") with revelatory lines like "My legs are on your bed so I do not think about her/but tell me/did he hurt you/in a new way?", and "Travel", but there really are no weak tracks on here. And at 33 min. this album clips by in no time, and you find yourself playing this again and again. A terrific album all around.

I had the chance to catch Thao and the Get Down Stay Down in concert last week, and they put on a great show, bringing a lot of the "We Brave Bee Stings" album. Thao was in a great mood, interacting with the crowd, just a terrific set. "We Brave Bee Stings and All" is a great album, and Thao is a talent to be watched.
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