Thao Nguyen of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down is one of those songwriters whose lyrics are widely described by music critics as “honest”. Of course, that’s just a short way of saying that her lyrics are charmingly self-aware and disarmingly revealing. Whether she’s musing about sexual power dynamics, unhappy relationships, or grappling with emotional insecurities, it’s always been clear that she was sharing from her own experiences.
As the title implies, on We The Common Nguyen deliberately shifts the lens away from herself (for the most part anyways) instead moving her focus towards broader storytelling inspired by her experiences working with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and with Occupy Oakland. But that doesn’t mean that We The Common is any less “honest” than her band’s previous albums. Indeed, in a recent interview Nguyen explained that “[ We The Common ] is me as an offering, trying to be part of the world, trying to understand how to be better.” The album’s title track, for instance, is written about a woman Nguyen met while working with the California state penitentiary. The track “City” is about her move to San Francisco. And, according to Nguyen, much of the album is thematically about “the collective energy and harvesting it.”