Saturday, January 26, 2008

Album Review: Sia - Some People Have Real Problems (3.5 / 5)

Australian singer Sia Furler, or simply Sia as she's known, is getting more than her fair share of publicity for her third album, Some People Have Real Problems. This thing is everywhere, prominently displayed in music stores and Starbucks. As a virtual unknown, she's lucky to get such a push, possibly owing to her last album's track "Breathe Me" being used over the finale of Six Feet Under a few years ago.

The album itself is good, but not great. Nothing objectionable, but only about a third of its 14 tracks really stand out to me. The album opens with the mellow, piano-backed "Little Black Sandals," which is fine but not a highlight. The next two tracks, however, are among my favorites. "Lentil" is a lovely ballad, with a grand strings and piano melody that really soars--surprisingly so--near the climax of the song. "Day Too Soon" has a laid back soulfulness that would make it welcome on a Norah Jones album.

Other highlights include the upbeat "The Girl You Lost to Cocaine," which doesn't sound like it should be upbeat, but the track features a lively dose of piano, horns and drums. I also really like the atmospheric strings- and piano-backed "I Go to Sleep," a remake of The Kinks track. Playful piano and strings ballad "Soon We'll Be Found" is another melodic highlight in the vein of "Lentil," with soaring choruses and tender verses. Hidden track "Buttons," which has an interesting video, is also worthwhile, and more uptempo than most of the rest of the album.

The remaining tracks, while not bad, are less appealing than the ones I've discussed above, like "You Have Been Loved," a quiet, tuneful piano track. "Academia" and "Playground" are quirky and playful. "Death by Chocolate" is soulful. The album closes with the dramatic ballad "Beautiful Calm Driving" and the more restrained "Lullaby."

Sia has an interesting voice with pretty strong pipes, not unlike a pre-Timbaland Nelly Furtado. The album suffers a bit from an identity crisis, mixing the dramatic grandeur of its ballads with the playfulness of its quirky upbeat tracks. Overall I enjoyed the album, but it's not the first best new thing of 2008.

Best: Lentil, Soon We'll Be Found, I Go to Sleep, Day Too Soon, The Girl You Lost to Cocaine, Buttons

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