I fell in love with Sia Furler the moment “Academia,” my favorite song from her 2008 release Some People Have Real Problems, finished playing on my stereo. That album was quaint and showcased both her quirkiness and her vocal talent. No song on that record resonates better with me than “Academia” to this day (I checked, re-listened to the album not more than a few hours ago).
Well, her newest LP,We Are Born, is far from quaint, and it’s definitely not reserved. As a matter of fact, it feels like a big old stab at mainstream success, which has somewhat eluded the soulful-singing, Australian-born lass to this point. I do not say that in the negative sense — far from it. I mention the slick production, the more up-tempo sound and the powerful beats backing Sia’s vocals this time around merely to highlight the difference between the two albums. I wouldn’t say one is necessarily better, but they are definitely different.
From the moment the first track,”The Fight” comes echoing through the speakers with its digitalized sampled voice repeating “We are born, we are born…,” it’s clear that We Are Born is a new animal. The songs are instantly catchy and are perfect for blaring through your car stereo’s speakers to announce the start of summer. You might get some strange looks (like I did when I tried it while driving through the neighborhoods of my youth. Just for fun. But I digress).
I think a fair comparison for the tweaking that Furler’s sound has undergone here is the change that a band which mainstream success had eluded until recently: Phoenix. Sure, Phoenix has always been good at creating hooks and sugary pop melodies that turn concerts into dance parties. But on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the band perfected that art and ratcheted up the tempo. It was a mild gamble, but it paid off in spades. Those friendly, good-natured Frenchies are bigger than ever.
And I think the same could be in store for Sia with We Are Born. There are plenty of indie-radio ready tunes here, and I must say I found myself singing along even when I hadn’t learned the words yet.
There are tracks that sound like circa-2008 Sia. The first slow breath the album takes is on the fifth track, “Be Good To Me,” which amply showcases Furler’s powerful range and talent. But it feels slightly different, and we dive right back into what feels like an indie-pop hit with Track 6, “Bring Night.” The quirk is dialed down here, but still emerges, mostly at the right times.
The change can’t obscure the talent that Furler has for delivering on most any melody with consistent, solid vocals. And the album finishes with a mostly hit ballad — still complete with electronic bleeps and blips — about escaping a deadbeat dad’s long shadow.
In short, this is less a step forward for Sia Furler and more a lateral move. But it’s a solid extension of her already-evidenced talent. It stays subdued enough not to be a betrayal of Furler’s artistic identity. And that’s refreshing.
Some samples below.
Buy the album from Amazon here.
“Clap Your Hands” By Sia (From We Are Born, out now Monkey Puzzle/Sony Music)
“Stop Trying” By Sia (From We Are Born, out now Monkey Puzzle/Sony Music)
“Cloud” By Sia (From We Are Born, out now Monkey Puzzle/Sony Music)
Holy crap! This video is amazing!