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We're listening to: Sia, Tove Lo and 'Where Should We Begin?'

We're listening to: Sia, Tove Lo and 'Where Should We Begin?'
From Engadget - December 18, 2017

Where Should We Begin?

The premise for the podcast Where Should We Begin? is simple and compelling: A noted psychologist (Esther Perel) records couples' therapy sessions, for your listening pleasure. The series, which launched earlier this year as an Audible exclusive, is now available on the more popular Apple Podcasts, with a new episode of the first season dropping each Friday. As you might expect, the brave couples in question are anonymous, with any identifying details edited out. And the experience of listening in on them is just as voyeuristic as you'd hope.

Each week presents a new vignette. The couples are diverse in both age and dilemmas, with problems that include sexlessness, the monotony of caring for small kids and, in more than one case, the aftermath of infidelity. Because each episode is billed as a "one-time" counseling session, it's never clear what became of the couple. To my ears, it is the aural equivalent of a short story: You drop in on these characters mid-narrative and take leave of them before there's necessarily a conclusion. Did he forgive her for cheating? Can they learn to find sexual compatibility? That we does not know feels appropriate: If there's a theme underlying the series, it's that there are no easy answers, relationships are hard, and everyone, even the unfaithful, is ultimately human.

Sia

I like "Deck the Halls" and "Frosty the Snowman" as much as any other joyous holiday tunes, but it's easy to get burned out on the same Christmas songs you hear dozens of times every year before the actual holiday. Thankfully, the pop mastery of Sia is here to save us from another year of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" for the 784th time. Indeed, the singer-songwriter's Everyday Is Christmas is not an album full of traditional selections -- and that's a gift we can all enjoy this year.

Sure, these hooks may not be as catchy as the skill that's on display in nearly every corner of 2016's This Is Acting, but the songs here are still super well done. Standouts for me are "Ho Ho Ho" (admittedly because it's about booze), "Sunshine" and "Underneath the Mistletoe." Sia's unique vocal sound and a break from tradition are what make this entire album a winner, though, if I am honest. If you are familiar with the singer's previous work, you know what to expect here in terms of sound: an even mix of bombastic sing-along pop choruses and swooning ballads. Of course, because these songs are not so familiar, it will take a few listens before you will actually be singing along, but that's just fine with me.

I get it: There's a limit to how much Mannheim Steamroller, Michael Bubl or Trans Siberian Orchestra you can hear before you start to go insane. It also does not help that even if your favorite artist released a holiday album, it's probably the same songs you are bombarded with from Halloween until Christmas Day. If you enjoy that, no judgment here, but I can take only so much of the same stuff before I am ready to bang my head on the table. And I really do not want to destroy another festive centerpiece.

Tove Lo

Blue Lips is not the album to listen to on the way to family holiday parties or stuffy office gift exchanges. This is the music to blast as you drive away from all of the garlands, gravy, ugly sweaters and sweets, heading home or back to your hotel, or to the end of your favorite bar. Blue Lips is heady, sensual and rich. It's ideal for introspective fantasy; it's an escape in electropop form.

Tove Lo has a gift for crafting entire worlds in each of her songs, inviting the listener into scenes spinning with sex, drugs, love and dancing. Blue Lips is a celebration of skin and sweat, and all of the emotions that combination can spawn. It's an honest experience: Tove Lo sings repeatedly, unabashedly, about her love of lust, but this is not a Disney star attempting to prove to the world how much she's grown up. Tove Lo is confident and comfortable in her own sensuality, and a haze of relaxed maturity permeates the album.

No Such Thing As a Fish

Rihanna

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