Sia "Colour The Small One" (Astralwerks)

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With the long-overdue US release of Colour The Small One, former Zero 7 vocalist Sia proves she is a formidable emerging talent to reckon with. The radiant sophomore set is a much more subtle and restrained musical epiphany that strips away the defiant, sensuous r&b inflections that defined her 2000 debut Healing Is Difficult, The slow-burning epic (originally released in 2004) steadily unfurls with introspective reflections about life’s brutal lows and joyful highs. Set against a framework of hauntingly addictive and languorous orchestral electronic-folk compositions, the Australian chanteuse’s captivating lilting voice pulls you deep into a private world where she shares intimate revelations with an unmistakable bewitching style that is simultaneously frail and confident, sad and seductive, withdrawn and enraptured. Highlighted by the heart-wrenching “Breathe Me” (immortalized in the closing scene of Six Feet Under’s series finale and on its soundtrack), the album simmers with tender evocative songs. From the hazy, symphonic-pop psychedelics of “Sunday,” the sweet melodies of the Beck co-penned “Bully” and the melancholic honey-dipped “Don’t Bring Me Down” to the soaring optimism of “The Church of What’s Happening Now” (which recalls classic Wendy & Lisa), “Numb” and the cathartic closer “Where I Belong,” Sia conceives a breathtaking reflection about growth, self discovery and “becoming” that draws comparisons to Lamb, Nelly Furtado, Kate Bush and Stina Nordenstam. Only “Sweet Potato” and “Natalie’s Song” dampen the mood with banal adult contemporary overtones. Otherwise, Colour The Small One is a masterpiece. Definitely one of the best albums of the year!

SIA