Sia – some people have REAL problems
Aussie pop singer Sia released her new album, some people have REAL problems, on January 8th.
Sia Furler is a little odd. But part of her charm (at least for me) is in the fact that she is so quirky. The outer cover of her new album features a picture of her with multi-colored scribbles on her face, gripping a bundle of markers as if they’re a magical microphone she’s using to communicate with an unseen audience. Instead of the usual lyrics and/or artist photos found in most album liner notes, Sia opted to showcase fan artwork. She held a competition through her website, chose the 14 submissions she liked the most, and made them ‘postcards’. They’re mostly crude drawings, and they’re all a little kooky — my fave is the one picked to represent “Death by Chocolate”; it depicts a fanged chocolate bar shooting what appears to be an indie kid. Step a little further into Sia’s technicolor world by visiting her website, siamusic.net. There, in addition to the ubiquitous band music player, you can dress Sia in (among other things) a poncho, sombrero & mustache, an Elvis outfit, or a Superman costume and watch her stretch, jump, and dance (if that’s what you want to call it) along to her tracks. If you’re still not convinced that Sia is a little…out there, check out this video for “Buttons”, one of the bonus tracks from some people have REAL problems.
Perhaps best known for her work with Zero 7 and her song “Breathe Me”, which appeared on the last episode of Six Feet Under, Sia’s latest album attempts to fulfill the promise of her earlier efforts. At times on some people have REAL problems, Sia’s voice conjures Fiona Apple, Nelly Furtado (pre-“Promiscuous”, that is), Joss Stone, or Erin Crowe (of the now-defunct Vibe Committee). Lead single “Day Too Soon” initially sounds alarmingly like Chris DeBurgh’s “Lady in Red”, though I do really like the Mock and Toof remix included as bonus material. An album highlight for me is the uptempo “The Girl You Lost to Cocaine”, which she performed January 8 on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. Also easy on the ears is “Academia”, which features vocals by Beck and playful songwriting, while Sia’s excellent version of The Kinks’ “I Go to Sleep” is almost heartbreakingly beautiful.
Truth be told, I actually prefer the bonus tracks to most of the rest of the album. These four songs (“Buttons”, “Cares at the Door”, “Bring It to Me”, and “Blame It On the Radio”) find Sia stepping away from her usual folk-pop ballads and taking some risks musically, and the result is compelling. “Bring It to Me” evokes visions of matadors, while “Blame It On the Radio” is driven by funked-out guitar and bass contributions. This is what I was hoping to find on some people have REAL problems: experimentation with different sounds and styles, a departure from her mostly-ballads repertoire. The relegation of these tracks to bonus material status I blame not “on the radio”, but on Starbucks. Maybe that’s not fair, but the album was released on Starbucks’ Hear Music label, and it’s easy to see how the ballad-heavy ‘regular’ (that is, non-bonus) songs would be deemed more appealing to the Starbucks set. Regardless, the album as a whole is a pretty–if not overwhelmingly exciting–listen and I look forward to seeing what Ms. Furler has in store for the future.
Cereal’s rating: 7/10 bowls.
Sia’s spring US tour starts in San Diego on February 15; she’ll be playing Warehouse Live in Houston on March 12. Visit Sia’s website for more information about dates and tickets.