Music Reviews: The Latest From Sia, Judas Priest, Chicago and More

Find out what albums you should be listening to this weekend.

ByABC News
July 13, 2014, 6:28 AM
Recording artist Sia performs during Logo TV's "Trailblazers" at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, June 23, 2014, in New York City.
Recording artist Sia performs during Logo TV's "Trailblazers" at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, June 23, 2014, in New York City.
Larry Busacca/Getty Images

— -- intro: This week enigmatic Los Angeles-based, Australian pop singer Sia returns with her epic album “1000 Forms Of Fear,” Judas Priest deliver some blistering metal, Chicago adds yet another volume to their 45-year recording history, pop/reggae singer Maxi Priest returns after a while out of the spotlight, California hip-hop and reggae-influenced group Dirty Heads offer up their latest and Emo-rockers Braid deliver their first album in 16 years.

quicklist: 1title: Sia’s “1000 Forms Of Fear” *****text: Sia Furler rose to fame as one of the voices fronting the chilled hits of British group Zero 7. Her solo hit, “Breathe Me” was used in the epic closing scene of the final episode of “Six Feet Under.” When her last album, 2010’s “We Are Born” was released her level of fame rose substantially. So much so, in fact, that she felt hassled by her fame and unable to have any private moments. This led to crippling battles with stage fright, addiction and nearly a suicide attempt. Once she got help, she resolved not to appear on camera again, wanting the joy of being a songwriter and a performer without the invasive elements that can accompany world-wide fame. It’s a tricky line to cross, but if you’ve seen her recent performances on “Ellen,” “Late Night With Seth Meyers” or “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” she’s figured out ways to sing with her back towards the audience or otherwise obscured onstage.

This life or death struggle for sanity and survival is the backbone of her new album, “1000 Forms Of Fear.” This album achieves the impossible. It’s an album that on the surface plays by modern pop’s rules, but at the same time, it has more meaning and is more substantive than the genre usually allows. In addition, as a writer, Sia never dumbs her work down. The Regina Spektor-esque minor-key operatic flourishes in “Burn The Pages” sounds much more musically advanced than pop radio usually allows even if it does lead to a big, bright chorus. Throughout the set, Sia throws in little turns in her melodies. The new-wave-meets Motown bounce of “Hostage” stands out, as does the dramatic call and response chorus of “Free The Animal.” She’s a sophisticated and gifted writer. It’s a blessing to the pop world that she has recently been writing for others as well.

She’s an unraveling ball of talent who possesses three very different, distinct areas of her voice. She has a soulfulness not dissimilar to Adele, and a knack for booming volume like Florence Welch. She allows every shade of her voice to appear on tape, even allowing it to crack on occasion for effect, thus creating a pop album that accentuates the innate frailty and endurance of the human spirit.

To put it succinctly, “1000 Forms Of Fear” is a smart, daring, complicated, emotionally gripping record that pop radio will actually play. It wrenches your heart in authentic ways. Sia is a survivor. In the face of tragedy, she has made her best record to date and a record that deserves to be an enduring classic. This might be the realest, rawest, most honestly courageous pop record you’ll ever hear. It is her masterpiece! If all pop albums were this thoughtfully constructed, the world would be a very different place.

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