Thao Nguyen is like a school yard crush: addictive yet elusive, achingly cute with dirt on her knees. “Beat (Health, Life and Fire),” the opening track of her sophomore release, We Brave Bee Stings And All, furthers this image. Above a fluttering acoustic guitar she sings, “Beat my bra, beat my chest, beat the ones who love me the best,” the lyrics unfurling with the ease of a nursery rhyme.
The 23-year-old Virginia Native utilizes this playful approach throughout We Brave Bee Stings And All‘s 11 tracks, shimmying through the ticklish “Bag of Hammers,” deconstructing the fragility of femininity on “Swimming Pools,” and getting lost in the unmapped vulnerability of the heart in “Geography.” With a uniquely tender vocal quality that shines because of its limited range, Thao’s verses spill like red-wine conversation with a friend, sharp with clever innuendo and pained humor, lifted by light textures provided by her backing band The Get Down Stay Down.
Thao’s wisdom is clearly in bloom, her delivery beyond her years. And like that schoolyard crush, she is a heartbreaker who offers a tender, perfect kiss –a euphoric verse or two – before running away.
We Brave Bee Stings and All is out now on Kill Rock Stars.