I'm scrambling to get a table for a guest DJ set at an Italian restaurant/pasta classroom in September. I realize that this statement -- uttered outside of the Bay Area -- may prompt in someone the desire to punch me in the face. But after I explain that Thao Nguyen -- Vietnamese American lead singer of Thao and the Get Down Stay Down and, in my opinion, the nation's leading indie goddess -- will be spinning her favorite songs at said Italian restaurant/pasta classroom, perhaps you will lower that fist and allow me continue. Having recently wrapped a tour promoting her side project Thao + Mirah (with fellow San Francisco-based artist Mirah) and their self-titled album, the Falls Church, VA-raised singer-songwriter also recently composed the music for the Dave Eggers-produced, Matt Damon-narrated documentary American Teacher. My heart, of course, is most loyal to her 2009 album Know Better Learn Faster and 2008's We Brave Bee Stings and All.
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down "When We Swam"
I'm steadily creeping toward 30 so it's difficult enough for me to stay abreast of music that is considered to be … good. Once a voracious music collector, I now rely on peers and loved ones to spoon feed me new music because scrolling through Pitchfork just makes my eyes cross and I can no longer muster the energy to plow through the vast amount of Asian American YouTube music videos. Research handicap aside, I still have the ability to be excited about music, even more so when I discover that a critically acclaimed and smug music snob-approved band has Asian American members. How excited? Well, enough to be emotionally distraught that I can't get reservations at the Italian restaurant/pasta classroom DJ set and enough to prepare to wait in line that night to see if I can elbow my way in. On a Monday night.
But luckily, my excitement (excitement, obsession, however you want to say it) isn't limited to Thao. Check out some other fine-sounding Asian Americans below and let this old-timer know who else is on your radar. I'm serious. Compiling this short list was exhausting for me.
The Morning Benders "Virgins"
Best Coast "Gone Again"
We are Trees "Sunrise Sunset"
Rocky Rivera "Slick Talk"
Dumbfoundead "Are We There Yet"
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!