18 Track, LP (2012, Inertia)
The “best of” compilation is a complicated beast. If the artist being compiled is too great, a “best of” attempt is doomed from the outset: all the albums are worth getting, so why settle for a sampler? If the artist is mediocre or worse, then the concept of “greatest hits” doesn't even apply – the album is two hits and a lot of filler. Better fodder for this type of packaging is an artist on the periphery; one that is accomplished, but marginal in the sense that they always seemed to be stuck on the verge of stardom.
This is precisely why a retrospective for Adelaide-born, LA-based pop singer Sia works. Without harping on about the profiteering involved with releasing this kind of “greatest hits” compilation, or the fact that Sia recently announced she would be quitting the touring and promotional cycle, many of the songs feature here are her best works. As such, it succeeds as an introduction to her career thus far.
Long-time fans, however, will likely find the compilation lacking. Spanning a measly six years and barely half the artist’s recorded output (disappointingly there aren’t any selections from 1997’s OnlySee or 2001’s Healing Is Difficult) it trades her idiosyncrasies in a heartbeat – for mediocrity and around twenty bucks.
It wouldn’t be a 21st century compilation without an add-on, which comes in the form of ‘Titanium’, a collaboration with David Guetta that peaked at #5 on the ARIA singles chart. It’s a decent song that wouldn’t raise eyebrows tacked onto the back end of Sia’s best work, but as a standalone moment it’s hardly a highlight.
Some of the playfulness of her early work is missed here; the loose analog charm of her earlier songs would have given the collection a little more lift. (How odd would it have sounded a decade ago to say a Sia compilation would suffer from being too leaden?) But these 18 songs collectively are a strong argument for why you're still hearing about Sia now. From the deliciously syrupy ‘Clap Your Hands’ to the earnest, atmospheric ‘Breathe Me’, this “best of” certainly isn’t a substitute for Sia’s whole catalog, but it isn’t a waste of money either.
by Jen Peterson-Ward