Review Summary: Sarah Fimm returns with an album that most fans probably didn’t see coming.
Sarah Fimm was first introduced to this site when she made her 2008 EP available as a free Christmas present for fans. It featured a varied collection of songs that ranged from gloomy trip-hop to subdued acoustic pop. It was a quality release that found its strength in the soothing vocals of Sarah herself. A little research led to the discovery that she had actually already released three full-length albums prior to that EP. These albums remained more firmly aligned with the trip-hop sound than the EP, but they were still quality releases. However, nothing in her past could have prepared fans for the huge leap that Sarah Fimm has taken with her fourth album, Red Yellow Sun
Red Yellow Sun
is simply a stunning and emotionally warm album that has stripped the electronic elements in favor of a more organic sound. This is a sound that is filled with acoustic guitars, piano flourishes, layered vocal harmonies and plenty of classical instrumentation. The use of classical instruments isn’t something new for Sarah’s music, but the extent that they’re used is. Their role has been stepped up significantly in order to fill the void left by the lack of electronics and include violins, viola, flute and trumpet – to name a few. These classical elements are enhanced by a frequent use of harmonized backing vocals which often take on a new age feel. The result of these various influences is an album that almost sounds like Sarah Mclachlan
if she were influenced by Enya
. That’s not to imply that Sarah Fimm doesn’t have her own sound – she most certainly does – only that it’s a good point of reference for those still at a loss for what this sounds like.
While credit must be given to Sarah for writing the songs and being the main focal point of the music, it wouldn’t sound the same without all her guest musicians. On her EP, guests included drummer Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails
, A Perfect Circle
) and Tony Levin (King Crimson
, Liquid Tension Experiment
) and while Josh doesn’t make a return appearance, Tony Levin does. Of all the songs, though, the strangest guest combination appears on the track “Crumbs and Broken Shells”. This song features a three-way vocal contribution from Sarah Fimm, Peter Murphy (Bauhaus
), and Leigh Nash (Sixpence None the Richer
). The song itself is a heartfelt track featuring lush string arrangements and delicate guitar playing that includes guest musician Jerry Marotta (Ani DiFranco
) on drums. Another four paragraphs could be devoted to the abundance of other guest musicians, but the true star of the album is Sarah Fimm’s voice.
Sarah’s vocals have always been the main reason to listen to any of her albums (it is her name on the covers, after all), and she has only improved. In the past, Sarah almost exclusively delivered her vocals in a very subtle and delicate manner that provided a soothing contrast to the electronics, but with their removal she has branched out. She still adeptly sings in the soothing voice that fans have come to expect, but she has also started to utilize a much more soulful style and a smooth swagger when the need arises. This helps lend the (mostly) dreamy and elegant music peaks-and-valleys that it otherwise wouldn’t always have. As anyone that has heard her previous work already knew, though, there was never any concern about whether Sarah’s vocals would be up to the standard they’ve always been.
In fact, most fans were probably never concerned about any aspect of this album not being up to the standards Sarah Fimm has set for herself. Her songs always feel meticulously crafted and straight from the heart and that is no different here. The lack of electronics isn’t even an issue as every element of this album is beautifully delivered without them. The fact of the matter is that Sarah has actually raised the bar with this album by delivering songs that are full of lush classical instrumentation, chill acoustic guitar riffs, and beautiful vocals from both her and others. It only takes a few moments for the lack of electronic elements to completely fade from memory, as the soothing vocals of Sarah Fimm return with the most accomplished album of her career.