Album Review: Sia – Some People Have Real Problems

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I LURVS me some Sia. I’ve been fortunate enough to see her solo in concert a few times and with Zero 7 once. The woman has an incredible voice and, quite frankly, is the most adorable pixie I’ve ever seen on stage. While I wouldn’t necessarily call her a strict “entertainer” in the purest sense, she appears to have more fun in front of an audience than any ten performers I’ve ever seen combined. It’s always a breath of fresh air to see a seemingly non-jaded singer soak up the pure joy of performing.

When last I saw her at the 9:30 Club a few months back, Sia gave the audience her “blessing” to visit “one of those sites out of Mexico” and download her latest, Some People Have Real Problems, rationalizing that no performers made a penny from album sales anymore and that it was her personal “thank you” for attending her show. Of course, I did so immediately, but the sound quality left something to be desired. I knew I loved it then, but it was only with the recent purchase of the CD that I realized how kick ass it really was. Now, I know my erstwhile partner Megan disagrees with me, but I’m willing to go so far as to say it’s the best damn album of the albeit very New Year.

Things start off with the inspirational “Little Black Sandals,” with which Sia incidentally opened the aforementioned show. It’s a nice opener, showcasing her vocal range. Next up is “Lentil,” my favorite track on her earlier live album, Lady Croissant. While this version isn’t quite as peppy as the live version, it’s fun nonetheless. “Day Too Soon” comes closest to the album’s first ballad, but to say it strays too far from Sia’s signature sound probably is a bit of overkill. This track already has received maxi-single treatment, complete with a number of remixes. Yeah, I bought that, too.

The next four tracks, however, are what take the album to stellar heights. “Girl You Lost to Cocaine,” while not a necessarily upbeat topic, is a powerful anthem about the painful reality of having to say “enough is enough” when dealing with an addict. Again, while the message is a bit of a downer, the addition of a driving drum and piano gives the track an uplifting feel. “Academia” may be my favorite track on the album. With seemingly nonsensical lyrics, Beck makes an appearance and the track jams along, plain and simple. Kinks cover “I Go to Sleep” brings the tone back down a bit, returning to the more ballad-like songs of Sia’s repertoire, but it’s moving nonetheless. “Playground” rounds out the quartet, as near to funkiness as Sia gets. A taste of hip hop sensibility, hand claps and Sia’s vocal range makes this one a winner.

The album ends a tad weaker than it starts. “Death by Chocolate,” “Electric Bird,” “Beautiful, Calm Driving,” and “Lullaby” are all fine tracks, but, truth be told, they’re not awe inspiring. The exception to the latter half of the CD probably is, “Soon We’ll Be Found,” another slow burner that simply blows wind up my skirt, plain and simple. While the album technically ends with “Lullaby,” there is the obligatory “hidden track,” “Buttons.” This one made the rounds of ye olde blogospheres a while back and it was that first taste that let me know SPHRP was going to be a winner. While the video is a bit odd, the track itself is a winner, ain’t no doubt about it.

Personally, I think it’s her best solo work since Healing is Difficult, and I loved that one. It’s got a nice mix of upbeat, pop-oriented stuff and slow jams, making for the perfect mixture of Sia goodness. Sia’s coming back to the 9:30 Club on March 7 and I already have my tickets. If you see the guy in glasses with the shaved head and some form of red facial hair (currently, I’m sporting the Wyatt Earp mustachio, but it may well be back to the full beard by then), come up and say “hey,” and I’ll buy you a beer.
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