Thao & the Get Down Stay Down have returned with A Man Alive, a brilliant and cohesive album that surpasses expectation. It's an elaborate showcase of musical talent and diversity; styles are blended between fractured beats and uninhibited vocals, while elements of tension and release are used strongly to toy with listeners' emotions.
Unorthodox song structures make every song on A Man Alive unpredictable: subterranean bass pulsates through "Astonished Man," while the album's highlight track, "Nobody Dies," features screaming, distorted vocals from Thao. The album's use of staccato funked-out guitar and twisted synths adds the variety of different genres and sounds employed here.
But while this album is masterful in a number of ways, it's Thao's confessional element that ties everything together. "Guts" makes for a perfect break in the album, slowing A Man Alive down with intimate lyrics like "I got the guts, I don't need my blood / If the breeze leaves, with the ones I love," that provide a sense of both pain and coming to terms with it. In "Fool Forever," Thao roars "To be scarce is to be king" and in "Meticulous Bird" she claims self-ownership with lines like "I take my body back" and "Now I perch above you, meticulous bird of prey." Listeners are invited to witness Thao at her most vulnerable, but also at her most fearless.
On A Man Alive, Thao wears her heart on her sleeve, and in doing so, she's created an album that has the ability to shake its listeners from within. (Ribbon)