It’s been four long years since Sia Furler released an album. The “socially phobic” musician has been staying out of the spotlight, ghostwriting for popstars like Beyoncé and David Guetta. Fame had gotten the better of Furler, who attempted suicide but was saved by a friend’s call. She had to find a way to deal with the stress of being famous and face her insecurities. And face her insecurities is exactly what she does in 1000 Forms of Fear.
Right from the start, her record grabbed me because of its frankness. The album begins with her hit single “Chandelier,” whichs talks about her drinking problem fueled by her desire to drown her sorrows with alcohol. “Party girls don’t get hurt…1, 2, 3 drink. Throw ’em back till I lose count,” she wails. Her voice cracks at one point during the song.
I was afraid 1000 Forms of Fear would be a front-loaded album but I was pleased that I enjoyed every song on the album.
I’m in love with this album.
While Furler’s story may seem bleak, there are several uplifting songs on the record. “Dressed In Black” stands out to me because she thanks her friend for bringing her back to the land of the living. “Yeah I had locked my heart, I was imprisoned by dark…Life had broken my heart into pieces. You took my hand in yours. You started breaking down my walls,” she sings.
As you can see I’m in love with this album. And it’s a damn shame I’m not in love with its sound.
The vinyl pressing is particularly noisy with tons of hiss during her quieter acoustic songs. A properly mastered and cut record can sound as quiet as a CD but that’s not the case here.
Beyond the noisy record, 1000 Forms of Fear suffers from dynamic range compression (DRC). What this means is that the loud and soft notes have been squashed down to be relatively the same volume. This is something most pop music suffers from, which is known as the “loudness wars,” where producers are competing to make their albums louder and louder.
It’s clear the vinyl was cut from a compressed digital master.
Furler’s voice is powerful and has a beautiful, craggily texture. But these details are completely lost because of DRC. Some songs on the record are particularly bad, making her voice sound like it’s coming out of a tin can. “Free the Animal” neuters the highest registers of Furler’s voice, making her sound artificially strained.
The vinyl includes an alternate version of “Elastic Heart,” featuring vocals by The Weeknd.
It’s clear the vinyl was cut from a compressed digital master. While artists like Jack White actually give a shit about sound quality, a majority of pop stars just don’t care. They know their music is going to be played out of cheap headphones and in the car so what’s the point?
Still, the sound quality is passable relative to other pop music. Does the sound prevent me from enjoying the music? No, but there’s no reason to pick up the record over the digital version, which sounds slightly better due to the lower noise floor (actual silence instead of record hiss).
It’s certainly not the worst sounding record out there but it’s frustrating because it could have been so much better.