How Pink Floyd Inspired Sia's New Song

24 March 2016 | 5:13 pm | Ross Clelland

'The most idiosyncratic use of a second artist is Sia’s repeated use of Maddie Ziegler’s dancing like nobody’s watching.'

Spreading from its beginnings of a different voice adding a rap aside on hip-hop tracks, the guest artist cameo – and it’s attendant ‘Featuring…’ brackets - seems to have become a fixture on all kinds of records now. It comes in a range of interruptions now, from not even noticing there’s a stranger in the house, to just about taking over the entire song.

Possibly the most idiosyncratic use of a second artist on your tune is Sia’s repeated use of Maddie Ziegler’s dancing like nobody’s watching allowing the actual artist to often hide in plain sight, as here. Cheap Thrills (Monkey Puzzle/Inertia) adds to the odd contradiction of having music of actually increasing personality while the composer shrinks further into the background. This is another pop construction of amazing craft and skill, and having a kid’s choir yelling through the chorus has nearly always worked from Pink Floyd onward. 

As an example of another tangent and tactic, Mark Pritchard’s Beautiful People (Warp/Inertia) started as an instrumental with a strange uneasy charm of its own, and many would have been happy had it just stayed that way. But commercial rather than artistic strategies come into play, and a guest voice is demanded. Now, whether that needed to be one as distinctive as Thom Yorke’s is the debatable point. He adds a necessary mystery – partly inasmuch as you can’t quite understand he’s saying – but will probably gain more listens in curiosity than those it loses from having that annoying bleary whine present which nearly even managed to ruin a PJ Harvey song. Wait, did I say that or just think it?

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

There’s a spread of handy music friends all across Little Scream’s upcoming album. Partial list: Sufjan, Sharon Van Etten, various Arcade Fires and members of The National among others. But it really doesn’t matter who’s responsible when the former Laurel Sprengelmeyer spools out a truly terrific piece of pop-funk-art-whatever with Love As A Weapon (Merge) which seems to fall on a brilliantly wonky line somewhere between St Vincent and Prince. Oh Canada, you’ve done it again. Feel free to dance like a mad thing around your loungeroom, coz this is fucking marvellous. 

Through the vagaries of fashion, Chris Cheney probably gets more noticed when he guest guitars on other people’s tunes than the still rather damn good songs coming out under The Living End brandname. So, remember when they were a rockabilly band? Because the aptly-titled Keep On Running (Dew Process) starts off on a synth/string intro, before you wait for it to bust out. Which it eventually does, in the manner that will be a cue for the punters to put down their lighter or iPhone, have a swig from that can of Woodstock & Cola, and yell along with the chorus. And repeat. 

Similarly, you know what you’re going to get musically - and politically - when you’re dealing with Future Of The Left. The Limits Of Battleships (Remote Control) is the choppy agitprop diatribes they’ve done for many years of listening to old Gang Of Four records, with the odd result they’re now probably making slightly better records than those they once saw as mentors. Andy Falkous still yells like he means it to the point of seemingly lacerating his throat, and if you think music is a serious political business like he obviously does, FOTL should probably still be on your list.

Bryan Estepa actually has enough of audience in Sweden (and Spain, and parts of the UK, and other pockets of Europe) to enable him to tour there as a reasonable-sized attraction whenever he can get time off from working at a certain well-known Australian electrical and music retailer, and/or if he wants to spend time away from his inordinately cute fairly-recent twins. While the family grew, he pared back his band to the classic-power trio and makes just a laser-focussed piece of slightly-countryish powerish-pop in Object Of My Disaffection (Rock Indiana). The subject matter might be a bit sour, but the song is as sweet as.

Aficionados of The Simpsons should remember The B-Sharps’ law of attempting music-related humour: “It should be witty at first, but seem less funny each time you hear it…” The comedy song is such a fraught business. I mean, how much can a koala bear? A joke is really only funny the first time you hear it. If you’re lucky. You may decide the quality of Arj Barker’s turn at the form, Disgracebook (Don Piano) as to whether it’s scathing social media social satire, or one joke stretched pretty thin over three minutes with pretty ordinary Eminem impression. Look, at the least it’ll be a handy visual aid when he’s doing talking head interviews about his next stand-up tour. 

Through some delicate guitars and that suitably strained vocal keen that marks a fair bit of the modern pop music as purveyed on the national youth network, Swim Season’s Gold Cloak City (Rare Finds) has some rather good emotional fragility to it, and enough sturdiness in the song for it to scrub up all right in either fuzzy-focussed mode with some electric and electronic underpinnings, or as an acoustic strum with various members exposing their pale inner-city knees to the sun.