Music Review—Calm Fury

Artist: Sarah Hiltz
Album: Calm Fury

Toronto-based contemporary folk artist, Sarah Hiltz, has released her new album, Calm Fury. The album is available for streaming anywhere you get your music.

Calm Fury is a collection of songs inspired by Sarah’s research into the ways that Canadians—particularly Canadian women—experience, express and repress anger, along with how others relate to female anger. According to Sarah, she was less fixated on capturing a particular sound or arrangement for each song, and instead focused on working with people who she felt would honestly engage with the subject and reflect it in their own performance. If you’re interested in hearing more about Sarah’s research or taking a more in-depth look at the themes of Calm Fury, you can check out Sarah’s podcast The Fury Pod.

Of the album, Sarah says, “”I had been thinking about the idea of controlled burns—setting fire to unhealthy parts of a forest to prevent wildfires that could do much worse damage. And of course, there are safety measures whenever this happens—the blackline or the firebreak—places where the fire can’t easily reach. In the songs, I’m recommending the listener to stay in those zones. I’m not coming for individuals with my anger, I’m not interested in tearing anybody down. But I am ferociously angry about systems that cause us harm and allow individuals to cause others harm, and I’m very interested in setting fire to those systems, for the sake of a healthier metaphorical forest for us all to live in.”

Calm Fury consists of eleven tracks: Retching In The Wings; Calm Fury; Love and Retreat; Swim; May I Rage, May I Love; Radio Silence; Move On; Bad Cycle; Darling, I Suffer; Daylight Savings; and As Long As You’re There. The songs “May I Rage, May I Love,” “Swim,” “Retching In The Wings,” and the title track, “Calm Fury” have lyric videos (or “visualizers,” as Sarah calls them) on YouTube.

Calm Fury has a sound that’s somewhere between jazz, folk, and classical. Unfortunately, I found many of the songs to be very middle-of-the-road—not quite slow enough to be considered a slow song, not quite fast enough to be considered an upbeat song—but rather, stuck somewhere in the middle. Sarah has a gorgeous, controlled voice, but the lyrics felt forced. Her purpose of the album is clear, and she remains on the “wildfire” theme, however some of the lyrics were trying so hard to be artsy that they didn’t make much sense. The songs also sound very similar, from the instrumentals to the tonality to the themes. Distinguishing between songs would be difficult. I really wish Sarah spoke more from her heart throughout the album, because it sounds like she’s a passionate woman with a lot to say.

I did enjoy the track “Move On”. This was one of the few songs that I felt picked a side of the road, per say. It’s a sad or bittersweet song (depending on which way you look at it) against an upbeat backdrop, deliberating the nuances of moving on from a relationship. The song opens with the lyrics, “goodbye is the beginning, of someone else’s song,” which I thought was incredibly beautiful. I also enjoyed the track “May I Rage, May I Love,” because it reminded me of the song “Exploration” from the Coraline soundtrack.

Overall, while I liked some aspects of the album, I wasn’t a fan of Calm Fury.

Check out Sarah Hiltz on her website and YouTube.