Sia, 1000 Forms of Fear – album review

sia 100 forms of fear

Damon Collum approaches the latest longplayer from Australia’s Sia with high hopes: 

People often appear to be on different wavelengths, and the trajectories their lives take them on are almost visible as colourful arcs or dark tangents. I don’t know Sia, but I imagine if our paths had crossed, her sense of creative direction would have seemed like a galactic spaceship of ideas. From a young age she was surrounded by music and artists and I would wager that becoming an accountant was never on the cards. From playing in acid jazz group Crisp to her ‘discovery’ by a DJ in Italy, it all seems like something that was meant to be.

Sia’s journey through various genres, writing and singing on a number of labels (and with an impressive role-call of musicians and artists) and equally having her own work remixed by artists such as Stonebridge, is testament to her talent and the wide appeal of her music. The last few years have seen an explosive rise in her popularity and she has been celebrated amongst her peers with a swathe of awards. Performing at Big Day Out (RIP), Coachella and working with everyone from Hilltop Hoods, Flo Rida, Maroon 5, Eminem and Christina Aguilera (the list is endless), no doubt she was known and respected for her musical talent long before then, but producing and writing with big names has a way of changing careers. Unfortunately this doesn’t always work in your favour, with tracks like David Guetta’s She Wolf having all the music genius of a drunk monkey with a three piece xylophone. Predictable and formulaic was not a signature of Sia’s and there are some suggestions that her more recent collaborations have tailored her style to be more mainstream.

Perhaps at some stage at this level of success (and a symptom of the digital age) you have to relinquish some element of the final product, as it’s whisked away seconds after birth to be thrust into a blender of media, remixes, and critical review.

Drink to get Drunk, released in 2001, was an instant favourite of mine and the various mixes and permutations of the track made for a sultry 1am night on the town (I went straight online to download some mixes of this and found a long list of older tracks readily available, namely her work with Zero 7). Her heavier lyrics and moodier tracks – a result of some personal tragedy and her soul-searching to understand it – was perhaps some of her more engaging work. Even reaching further back, there is still timeless appeal to her vocals with Crisp. Tracks like Delirium and The Right Time still fill my mind on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

When given the chance to review her new work, I was keen to see what evolution it had taken, considering a long time had passed since I was captured by voice. The opening tracks were reminiscent of the heartfelt and overly dramatic scenes played out in the romantic modern dance sequences in So You Think You Can Dance. Seemingly more suited to a soundtrack for a TV series, the music was at times flat and soulless and something was amiss. It is no surprise a number of her tracks have recently been used for exactly these purposes.

The album is somewhat unconvincing and what results is an average delivery of average tracks. Where her discography and early work will always stand to prove that she is a great talent with memorable performances, 1000 Forms of Fear will be likely be lost in a sea of mediocrity. Whilst the lyrics and delivery are strong and the emotional overtones are, for the best part, well orchestrated, the album as a whole fails to reflect the artist. This seems like a flat and empty process and, at times, the tracks become lost within each other, carrying the same tone without breaking any moulds or really showcasing her vocals.

Purists will disagree and diehard fans will defend her refined and polished production, but those who have skipped from Crisp and early works to now, may wonder what happened. I wanted to like this album, in fact I was hoping to love it, with plenty of good reason to have high expectations, but it left me wanting the galactic arc of creativity I had imagined she would deliver.

Sia, 1000 Forms of Fear is out on the 4th July on Inertia Recordings.

Review by Damon Collum.