Album Review: Sia, '1000 Forms of Fear'

Sia Furler's first break came when her dirge-like 2004 ballad "Breathe Me" was used as the bleak closing song in the series finale of HBO's Six Feet Under. So, her second act, as songwriter to the stars, has been unlikely, to say the least. Her moody solo albums often detailed struggles with addiction, complete with titles like "The Co-Dependent" and "The Girl You Lost to Cocaine," which made it difficult for some fans to reconcile them with the comparatively innocuous lyrics and trendy beats of pop hits she has written, like Flo Rida's "Wild Ones" or Rihanna's "Diamonds."

But "1000 Forms of Fear," Sia's first album in four years - and her first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 - is the most representative collection of both her idiosyncrasies and talents. It's stuffed with more pop hooks than even she and go-to collaborator Greg Kurstin (Pink, Lily Allen) know what to do with, as evidenced on "Free the Animal," on which Sia, 38, has to practically interrupt herself mid-verse to get to the teeth-gnashing chorus. But there's also plenty of emotional depth and moments of uncomfortable intimacy, like plaintive ballad "Cellophane," which hints at a friend preventing her attempted suicide shortly after the release of 2010's "We Are Born."

Though it's not hard to imagine some of the songs here in the hands of other pop stars ("Fire Meet Gasoline" has a monster chorus reminiscent of a Beyoncé power ballad), the vocals - an impossible blend of tremulous howl and sensual siren's call - are all Sia's. The operatic leaps and key changes of hit lead single "Chandelier" alone should be enough to scare off an Auto-Tune-enabled starlet. Sia may have taken a step back from the spotlight to promote it, but with "1000 Forms of Fear," her time has finally arrived.


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