Shirley Hurt 
Shirley Hurt 

Telephone Explosion • 2022

Shirley Hurt captures that often hard-to-obtain mystical, timeless sound that makes folk music feel so enchanting.

You can’t often say that a debut record is a creative turning point for an artist, but Sophia Ruby Katz is an anomaly. Having previously released music under different names, Katz is now wading into the illustrious and magical world of shadowy indie folk as Shirley Hurt. Katz’s earlier work as Ferrari Garden (a soulful, electronic disco project that is self-described on Bandcamp as “[songs] you’ve never heard but somehow you know the words..”) and experimental ambient workings as Sifra Rifka all make sense when you understand Katz’s origins working as a DJ.

Shirley Hurt is primarily a bleak examination of someone’s insecurities and anxieties (If the chosen appellation for this venture didn’t already give it away). And in doing so, it captures that often hard-to-obtain mystical, timeless sound that makes folk music feel enchanting. With her arresting vocals, compelling lyrical narrative, and delicate, ethereal production, Hurt maximizes the genre’s potential and stretches it for all it’s worth. 

Album opener “The Bells” works as a great tone setter and Hurt’s voice leaves you hanging on every word. “Trial by fire steers the ship from off its course,” she sings over a slow and methodical grand piano. As she mulls over ideas of inadequacy and self-destruction, the affecting melody ends unresolved: “Where have I found myself? I’ve missed my turn.” Songs like “The Bells” and later “Pendulum” accentuate Hurt’s care for melodies and vocals. It’s something akin to Sibylle Baier, Judee Sill, or other masters of dark folk. 

At other moments, like with the standout track “Charioteer,” a bright pop chorus brings much-needed levity and brightness to the whole album. Over jazzy acoustic guitar licks, pulsating piano notes, and a marching drum kit, Hurt lets her vocals soar. “Charioteer” gives us a glimpse into Hurt’s inner monologue as she explores questions about the individual intentions within relationships, love, and escaping the past. Part dream sequence, part interrogation, “Charioteer” is a wonderfully complex and beautiful song that makes for a delightful and rewarding experience.

That rewarding experience can be said for the majority of Shirley Hurt. It’s an auspicious creative turn for an artist who cut her teeth in the club scene. Whether or not she continues down the indie-folk road, it’s a welcomed stop.

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