Before she reimagined herself as an authorial queen of outsized pop anthems, Sia made her name back in the early ‘00s singing on blunted downtempo jams like Zero 7’s “Destiny” (forever watching porn in her hotel dressing gown), then made it again on her parched, purring, brink-of-a-bad-trip solo ballad “Breathe Me,” which wound up scoring the gorgeous, cast-extinguishing finale of Six Feet Under. Branded as LSD and wrapped in Peter Max-y graphics, her latest project might suggest a throwback chill-room journey — especially given the participation of Diplo, a longtime dub scholar (his remix of Sia’s “Clap Your Hands” is among his more mind-bending efforts) and Labrinth, the rising UK soulman who seems able to vibe with pretty much anyone, anywhere.
As it turns out, LSD isn’t especially psychedelic, at least by old-school definitions. But it does function as an off-brand license for three big-box pop stars to trip out. And while the songs aren’t top-shelf Sia, for a session that comes across more like an arcade game than a coherent album, that’s fine. (In fact, the group had an online video game developed as part of the project.) The LP begins with a robotic introduction, Labrinth’s doo-wop fractals, and Sia screaming “I’m here on Venus!” Then Diplo drops a moderately filthy bassline, and it’s off to the races. There’s a fleeting, David Gilmour-ish electric guitar flourish; otherwise, it’s mostly standard issue synth-pop, pumped through an ion storm of pitched-up vocal fragments, percussion shrapnel, and 8-bit bleep-blorp.
The tastiest jam is “Thundercloud” — rocksteady bounce, vintage reggae brass, Sia’s digitally-sputtered swoops, and Labrinth’s croons of “All I need is love” (the Beatles references continue in the video, with Diplo, animated Yellow Submarine-style, driving a Magical Mystery Tour bus). The vocal chemistry between Sia and Labrinth is playful and sexy and occasionally generates sparks; see “No New Friends,” a courtship duet for CBD cocktails. In fact, the album’s main charm is as a duet vehicle, a tradition that modern pop’s endless loop of solipsism seems to have little use for – think Otis Redding and Carla Thomas’ King & Queen, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner’s Porter Wayne and Dolly Rebecca and, if you must, Gaga and Tony’s Cheek To Cheek. Labrinth and Sia camp it up for “Genius,” she name-checking Galileo, Einstein and Steven Hawkins in praising his wisdom for loving “a woman like me;” Sia even busts some operatic aria moves, pitched up into Merry Melodies territory, amidst some high-court chamber-music strings. Since LSD couldn’t squeeze a tenth song out of the project, they end the record with a “Genius” remix, Lil Wayne reordering the alphabet to chant the group’s name. It’s fun enough, like the rest of the set, but given the moniker, it’s not unreasonable to have expected something a little more profound.