It's a tough feat to collage multiple layers of instrumentation into something cohesive, let alone enjoyable, but Thao and the Get Down Stay Down manage it nicely on their new album, We the Common. It's quirky pop, like their previous three releases, but the San Francisco-based band seems to get more adventurous with every step. Within a few minutes of the opening, banjos pluck in and out, horn sections appear and depart, and xylophones punctuate Thao Nguyen's sweet, light vocals.
The album is effervescent even on the title track, with it's "ooh-ooh-ooh" chorus, though the song is dedicated to Valerie Bolden, a woman serving a life sentence in a California prison for stabbing an abusive husband. It's a somber story, but Nguyen found Bolden's positivity to be uplifting, telling NPR's "All Songs Considered" that the song "is about people collecting their energy and taking care of one another, and all the joy and celebration inherent in such an act."
The hooks on We the Common are instantly enjoyable, but the sonic textures make it an album you can return to again and again when you need a pick-me-up.