Thao With the Get Down Stay Down, 'Know Better Learn Faster' (Kill Rock Stars)

Critical Mass
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by Jessica Suarez

As an angry, resentful breakup record, the fourth album from wry singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen is totally unsatisfying, at least on the surface. She doesn't pile on the hatred for her ex or threaten revenge, and opener "The Clap" is about, well, clapping. But Nguyen uses subtler weapons -- foot stomps stand in for her wrath, horns for her desperation, and strings for her heartache. "I can love you like this now / You can recognize it later," she predicts on "Cool Yourself." Her lazily smoky voice has its bitterly harsh moments, but her coolly analytical self-awareness stings the most.

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