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Album Review: Sia ‘1000 Forms of Fear’

Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on July 8, 2014

Australian songstress Sia Furler has returned from a four-year hiatus with a typically infectious sixth studio album 1000 Forms of Fear. Combining pure pop and brooding, melancholy lyrics, she soars above her contemporaries with one of the best Australian pop albums in recent memory.

There is a quality in Sia’s voice that separates her from the pack – as if something pure and perfect was mistakenly dropped, chipped and splintered apart. This doesn’t even slightly diminish it, though – it adds rawness, emotion and original intensity.

On this album, this is more obvious than ever. It’s almost a complete backflip from her previous album We Are Born, which exploded with a youthful playfulness. 1000 Forms of Fear reflects its darker title. The four years that passed between albums were marked by personal problems, and it is no surprise that these insecurities are laced within the tracks.

The album opens with Sia’s immense single Chandelier. Immense in more ways than one, her breathtaking range and the raw power of her vocals is unabashedly on display. With a light synth beat and syncopated reggae feel, it draws you in from the first flurry of drums. The chorus threatens to explode out of the radio with its addictive force, endearing it to fans all over the world.

But where there is power, there is also fragility. Haunted by her battle with depression after her continued rise to fame after her last album, she confronts her demons, alcoholism, and her nature as a “party girl”.

While it’s the most explosive track, Chandelier is not a fair representation of the entire album. The record is seemingly split between high-octane pop anthems and slow melancholy ballads, providing much needed reprieve and variety.

Big Girls Cry is one such song. To the sound of a heartbeat, she swoons over heartbreak and lost love. But if the record risked descending into sombre ballads, a classic Sia track is dished out in the form of Burn the Pages. Possibly the best track on the album, it seamlessly meshes the controlled with the playful. A syncopated and addictively original hook boosts the empowering message of new beginnings.

Eye of the Needle and Straight for the Knife deal with yet more dark, mature themes, and it’s clear that few artists can combine dark lyrics and radio-friendly melodies this artfully. It’s no surprise though, considering she’s written some of the biggest pop chart toppers in recent years for the likes of Katy Perry, Rihanna and Beyonce.

Free the Animal is a zany tune packed with typical Sia quirkiness. Electronically-manipulated vibrations occasionally overpower her tone a little too much, but the result is another radio-friendly hit with a powerful chorus.

If anything negative is to be found on the album, it is the repetitive backing tracks.  Sia’s vocals are brilliant, but the endless backing of subtle electronic beats and drums becomes dry very quickly. Some variation in styles and instruments would add so much spice to an already brilliant record.

1000 Forms of Fear is easily Sia’s most mature record yet. It is little wonder that she picked up APRA’s songwriter of the year award for the second year running. Her songs are a breath of fresh air – straying away from the temptation of auto-tune and over-production. It is pop at its very best, laced with dark undertones that give her an air of believability.

Her intriguing stance on publicity should be noted, considering her intense avoidance of the media spotlight, supposedly to allow for attention to focus entirely on the music. Indeed, she’s flatly refused to show her face in the slew of promotion for the album. (In fact, her ‘anti-marketing’ campaign has been some pretty fantastic marketing in itself…)

But regardless of whether we ever see her face again, her music speaks for itself. Sia has once again proven her domination of the Australian pop scene. It seems inevitable that with this record, she will rise above the label of a brilliant writer and collaborator to that of a simply brilliant artist.


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