Sia has created a holiday album for those who don't love classics

PHOTO: Sia performs at Barclays Center, Oct. 25, 2016, in New York City. Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Sia performs at Barclays Center, Oct. 25, 2016, in New York City.

Sia’s “Everyday is Christmas”
****

Sia’s Christmas music collection is particularly interesting because consists of all originals. “Candy Cane Lane” is a love letter to the Phil Spector sound of the early '60s, while both “Snowman” and “Snowflake” show some sadness regarding the changing of seasons, albeit with a strong bit of sweetness.

Speaking of sweet, Sia’s song “Puppies Are Forever,” which (somewhat confusingly) attests that they are “not just for Christmas,” should become a favorite of folks who love dogs, while “Ho Ho Ho” seems to celebrate Christmas Party drunkenness. The idea behind “Santa’s Coming for Us” sounds somewhat threatening, while “Sunshine” is a friendly pop song written from the perspective of “Santa’s Helper.”

There’s a vaguely dark sense of humor behind some of these songs but at the same time, it’s all executed in a playful way that still sounds seasonal without becoming too saccharine. “Underneath the Mistletoe,” you would have thought would be upbeat, but it sounds more like a less dire cousin of “Straight for the Knife” from her 2014 classic album, “1,000 Forms of Fear.” The title track too sounds very earnest in its own way.

This is a striking and unusual Christmas album for sure. It comes off like a holiday album designed for people who are turned off by the more traditional holiday fare. If you are one of those people who loves the holiday season but finds the old classics a little grating, Sia has done something good here that should add freshness to your rotation.

Focus Tracks:

“Santa’s Coming for Us” If you love songs like “Chandelier” and “Cheap Thrills,” this is like a bouncy, cheerful cousin of both. Sia’s obviously trying to write a modern Christmas song that fits the unique edges of pop radio.

“Underneath the Christmas Lights” She sings this with a seriousness usually reserved for songs like “Ave Maria.” This album is secular in nature, but this song almost sounds like it was recorded in a church. She’s softly delivering her solo and allowing her voice to slowly stretch. It’s an amazing display of talent.

“Puppies Are Forever” This is one of the easiest songs to like on here with its Motown-style backbeat and cheery message. It’s cute and hilarious in its own way.

PHOTO: Tove Lo performs during Splendour in the Grass 2017 in Byron Bay, Australia. Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Tove Lo performs during Splendour in the Grass 2017 in Byron Bay, Australia.

Tove Lo’s “Blue Lips (Lady Wood Phase II)
***1/2

Swedish singer Tove Lo follows up last year’s “Lady Wood” with a sequel, “Blue Lips.” Again this means yet another batch of songs celebrating sex and drugs. Her pop chops are still intact but this time Tove Lo seems to be baiting her audience more than ever. On 2014’s masterpiece “Queen of the Clouds,” anthems like this seemed fresh, but now it sounds like she is trying to be shocking for shocking’s sake.

Even though three albums in it feels like Tove Lo is just trying to push buttons, she’s still one of the best pop stars to emerge in recent years, and at its peaks, this album can recall Madonna’s “SEX”/”Erotica” era, although this album has some of the most graphically sexual lyrics this side of a Peaches record.

Still, there’s a lush, chill quality to “Shedontknowbutsheknows” and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” Particularly on the tail end of the record, it shifts from an aggressively sexuality to sadder ballads about lost love and missed opportunities. “9th of October,” “Bad Days” and the deceptively titled “Hey You Got Drugs?” all show her vulnerable side.

Beneath the flashy songs flaunting sex, there’s a looming sadness. Perhaps, too, the character Tove Lo has created is using love and sex as drugs to numb some sort of pain. As taboo as she can be, she has become an expert at weaving a consistent narrative.

“Blue Lips (Lady Wood Phase II)” is not for the easily-offended, but those who enjoyed her other two records will enjoy this record too.

Focus Tracks:

“Bad Days” A lush song that hints at depression after heartbreak and blossoms into a softly affecting, EDM-influenced pop hit waiting to happen.

“Cycles” Another love-minded ballad, this minimalist danceable romp effectively shows off Tove Lo’s voice against a skeletal beat and an effective synth-chord loop.

"B------" In its mere 2 minutes, 17 seconds, this celebratory ode to seducing women is so scene-stealing that it almost distracts from the rest of the album. Though it could be viewed as misogynistic, from another angle, it is kind of a celebration of female empowerment. It’s naughty, it’s raunchy and it has questionable motives but it has undeniable pull.

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