Sia: Colour the Small One

Sia takes difficult subject matter and lovingly dissects it, allowing her listeners a beautiful glimpse at a tortured psyche.


Colour the Small One

Label: Astralwerks
US Release Date: 2006-01-10
UK Release Date: 2004-01-19
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Insound affiliate

...Claire steps into the car and puts the very much misnamed "Ted's Deeply Un-Hip Mix" into the CD player. Slowly, carefully, a lovely mix of gently cascading pianos and breathy vocals (followed eventually by a slow rock beat) seeps out of the speakers as the requisite final-episode montage graces the eyes of HBO viewers. And thus, Six Feet Under ends, leaving the lasting question on the minds of paralyzed, misty-eyed watchers everywhere:

"What was that deeply un-hip song?"

That song was and is "Breathe Me", by the artist known only as Sia. The song's placement at the end of Six Feet Under has ultimately, finally resulted in Sia's second album Colour the Small One getting a much-deserved release in the United States nearly two full years after its release in the UK. And yes, I said "much-deserved," and I don't say that lightly -- this second release from the Australian artist is packed full of at least as much alliteration-inspiring exquisite emotion and melancholy melody as "Breathe Me" would imply.

Sia's first album Healing is Difficult is an album that falls closer to slightly skewed R&B than any other genre, but Colour the Small One is likely to appeal more to those fans of her work with the UK purveyors of downtempo in Zero 7. Colour the Small One is an incredibly "internal" album, one where we feel as though we're hearing the stream of Sia's consciousness, listening to her thoughts as much as we are hearing her words. "And I'm addicted to the joy that the little things / Those little things / The little things they bring," she sings in the cinematic, string-enhanced "Don't Bring Me Down", coming off something like Natalie Imbruglia as heard from inside the womb, all poppy chord changes and slow builds in a soupy, near-whispered haze. "You've drawn me into your world / Now I too spin, limbless," she sings in “Moon”, whispering a striking, almost violent concession of loving submission to an unnamed lover. That sense of loss of control, more contemplated than acted upon, is the essence of what Colour the Small One exemplifies most consistently.

Of course, such a loss of control is understandable given the inspiration for much of Sia's music. She has mentioned that her first album was a direct reaction to the tragic death of her lover, but much of that album feels detached, as if Sia was purposefully avoiding the sorrow that comes with such catastrophe. Colour the Small One is the confrontation, as Sia continually talks herself through her darker thoughts: "Give yourself a break / Let your imagination run away" is her advice in the faux-chipper "Sunday", yet by the next song (the aforementioned "Breathe Me"), she's back to sentiment more in line with mourning, singing "I think that I might break / I've lost myself again and I feel unsafe". Hers is a psyche on the edge, simultaneously disturbing and beautiful. It all makes the payoff at the end that much more satisfying, as "The Church of What's Happening Now" brings Sia's focus to the present, while the upbeat, out-of-character "Where I Belong" keeps one eye on a brighter future while giving some closure to the past, ultimately closing on the line "There's a place here for you with me".

So it goes. Colour the Small One has all of the attributes of a Hollywood movie in which the protagonist and the foil both happen to be the same person. There's conflict, there's high drama, there's tragedy, and there's a happy ending. There's even a subplot added for character development in which our heroine deals with a less-than-flattering portrait of the person she once was ("Bully", co-written with Beck in sad sack Sea Change mode). And, as an added bonus, America gets the expanded DVD edition of said movie, complete with deleted scenes (lovely UK B-Sides "Broken Biscuit" and "Sea Shells") and alternate takes (two remixes of "Breathe Me"), all of it filling up over 70 minutes of the CD on which it is housed.

That's 70 minutes to savor, to let the words run through you, to let the melodies wrap around you. 70 minutes to treasure, for that's what Colour the Small One is, a treasure chest unlocked, a tin foil ball of emotion unwrapped for all to see, finally noticed two long years after its announced presence. So notice it.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.