Sia: We Are Born (Album Review)

For years, Australian songstress Sia Furler‘s name was inextricably linked to all things blue.

There were her cosmic, soulful ballads with Zero 7 including “Destiny,” assorted slow burning singles from 2004 album, Colour the Small One such as “Where I Belong” and “Don’t Bring Me Down” and of course the singer’s now signature “Breathe Me,” the instant tearjerker that won the singer literally thousands of fans overnight thanks to its perfectly timed inclusion in the series finale of Six Feet Under.

With her 2006 album, Some People Have Real Problems, Sia slowly began tracing the outlines of something much bolder and brighter for herself. Bubblier up-tempos, such as “Buttons” and “The Girl You Lost to Cocaine” demonstrated Sia’s ability to go beyond the realm of the ballad. But perhaps more than anything, they suggested that perhaps the singer simply wanted to have some fun for once.

This week, Sia releases her fifth studio album, We Are Born, and it appears as though the singer finally got her wish.

Each song on We Are Born is vibrant and playful, colored by zany guitar riffs, celebratory hand claps, and impossibly catchy collection of lyrical hooks. Like a toy box stuffed to the brim with springy sounds and silly noises, it’s perhaps fitting that Sia’s new album sees its release only a week after the premiere of Toy Story 3.

Songs like “Bring Night,” “Clap Your Hands,” and “You’ve Changed” are so instantly familiar that it’s almost hard to believe we’d never heard these songs before. “Bring night, bring the night on!” Sia chants on the former (along with the voices of half a dozen or more celebratory participants) as she bounces above loud sirens and frenzied guitar licks brighten up the anthem.

Others including “The Co-Dependent” and “Never Gonna Leave Me,” simply ooze with feel good melodies, providing summer jam-ready guitar riffs and sing-a-long friendly lyrics.

The cohesive flow of the album is due in large part to the genius production by rising pop legend, Greg Kurstin. The producer has seemingly tapped directly into Sia’s on-stage persona for this record, providing a soundscape of bright beats and noises that completely translates the singer’s on-stage effervescence into music (as witnessed live in Boston, check out the MuuMuse review here.)

Even in Sia’s most solemn moments, the beat remains (mostly) bubbly, as with the gorgeous “Hurting Me Now”: “You think it’s a joke, but baby, you don’t even notice,” Sia softly murmurs during the song’s otherwise slap-happy chorus. It’s a devastating number, but you’d never know it if you weren’t paying attention.

It’s only with the album’s major ballad, “I’m In Here,” that Sia revisits the territory that first catapulted her into the public’s consciousness with Zero 7 and her trademark single. In short, it is the album’s “Breathe Me”–vulnerable, pensive, and an utterly gorgeous display of Sia’s range and delivery style.

Ironically, perhaps no song on the album captures Sia’s essence best than with her cover of Madonna‘s 1989 single, “Oh Father.”

While a major undertaking to begin with (covering the work of legends is always the stuff of danger), the singer masterfully tackles the Queen of Pop’s grief-ridden ballad, complimenting the track with her own signature warble and Kurstin’s playful, bells-and-beats production. The song may be Madonna’s, but the sound is completely and undeniably Sia’s–a perfect representation of what a cover should sound like.

With We Are Born, Sia has finally colored in the lines drawn by her past efforts. The album is not only Sia’s first major pop moment, but also her personal best and brightest yet.

To preview and purchase We Are Born on iTunes, click here.

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