(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

CD review - Sia, We Are Born (2010)

Sia has an instinctive sense of pop. Her voice shifts from bubbly sweetness to streetwise experience, from assertive feminism to darker anguish. While you can hear bits of other pop singers - Cher, Tori Amos, and Pink, to name a few -- she has her own sense and timing.

We Are Born is a long way from her simpler contributions to Zero Seven. The music here is more varied and she slides comfortably down into each song, taking decisive ownership. The arrangements are interesting and full of tight little gems of detail.

It's hard to pick a favorite. The Co-Dependent reflects XTC's Mayor of Simpleton. Aside from the melodic reference, it has the same layering of synths behind the other instruments. Big Girl, Little Girl starts off Tori Amos, but the music fuses '80s synth pop with a modern pop feel. The keyboards are retro, but the drum work is clearly contemporary. Sia's voice is the fusion point. The lead guitar (another retro point) takes a simple melodic approach. Then the synth collapses, leaving an unadorned piano and vocal, which brings the circle back to Tori Amos:
You know with every cruel word that you utter
That you bury yourself even deeper everyday
Oh, little girl, there's enough love in this circle
You can shackle yourself or be free from this pain.
The second half of this disc is consistently better than the first half. Songs like Bring Night and Never Gonna Leave Me emphasize the pop side, with all the satisfying hooks anyone could ask for. But they still have enough interesting structure to stand up to repeated listens. Compared to the stronger songs, the disco of You've Changed or dragging R&B of Be Good To Me don't come off as well, but they still round out the mix for We Are Born.

Mix up a Kir Royale and enjoy several of the songs from We Are Born here.

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