Exclaim!'s Top 27 Albums of 2016 So Far

22. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down
A Man Alive
(Ribbon Music)

The trajectory of Thao Nguyen's career seems divine. Everything fell into place for A Man Alive, her fourth album at the helm of the Get Down Stay Down. Although she hasn't yet received the same acclaim as peers like St. Vincent and tUnE-yArDs, this album splits the difference between their finest work. Merrill Garbus helped produce Thao's 2011 collaborative full-length with Mirah, but her distinctive tUnE-yArDs freak-folk feel is blessedly more present on A Man Alive.

The album's sound is quirky, bubbling over with odd joyousness that's tempered by the frustrations and protests of daily life. "Nobody Dies" and "Fool Forever" carve deep impressions on the psyche, while her ode to survivors of sexual assault, "Meticulous Bird," remains incredibly potent in the aftermath of the Dr. Luke and Jian Ghomeshi cases. That she can convey her messages in a style as unusual and infectiously vibrant as Odelay-era Beck makes A Man Alive a future classic.
Alan Ranta