By: Matt Terl
You have to wonder, sometimes, what separates one-hit wonders from artists that endure, and what causes the forces of the pop music marketplace to conspire for one brief moment to allow a serious performer one blazing, fleeting triumph. It almost happened to Australian chanteuse Sia. She’s had a string of successes dating back to her debut single in 2000, “Taken for Granted,” followed by a well-reviewed solo album and a subsequent turn as a featured vocalist for British post-trip-hoppers Zero 7.
She’s got one of those voices you’ve almost certainly heard, even if you didn’t know her name, which is appropriate since a feeling of comfortable familiarity permeates her second album, Colour the Small One. With their pleasant mï¿½lange of acoustic guitar, gentle beats, keening strings, and Sia’s borderline incomprehensible drawl, the songs envelop like a well-loved flannel blanket. “Breathe Me” might sound familiar from its appearance on the series finale of Six Feet Under, or it might just be because Sia sings “Be my friend / Hold me, wrap me up / unfold me” like she’s talking to someone she’s known forever. In songs like “Sweet Potato,” she crafts a vivid set of characters — “He’s brought with him a Mars bar / She will not buy Nestle” — ensconced in the minor details of a familiar everyday life.
Some of this emotion stems from tragic circumstances in Sia’s own life, ranging from minor (nearly being thrown into the same cultural landfill as Eiffel 65 and Donna Lewis) to the vastly more serious (losing her first love to a car accident). But, taken as a whole, it’s the actual sound of catharsis, of a person reflecting not only on shortcomings, but on lessons learned in a hundred different ways.
Originally released internationally in 2004, Colour the Small One arrives in the U.S. on Jan. 10 via Astralwerks with two bonus cuts and two remixes of “Breathe Me.”