Bless These Sounds Under the City, Albert Strawn and Derrick J. Hines, make the most of a minimalist musical approach on the duo's self-titled debut. The arrangements get lush accoutrements that are missing in the live setting, but do little to corrupt the music's overall simplicity.
The 13-track album begins with the keyboard-driven "In Between the Reasons," complete with popping drum machine sound effects. Strawn's vocals take the spotlight — ranging from subtly sultry to falsetto sweetness as the music veers toward electro-pop emo territory. A twinkling xylophone and accordion accents add to the backdrop of the stunning six-minute "Crippled Dancer."
"Broken Sunflower" is led by a finger-picked acoustic pattern and complimentary piano and harmonica as Strawn sings of heartache. BTSUTC gets derailed on "Train of Thought," gets a full band treatment, but it works in the context of the album. "Burning on the Moon" sounds like chiptunes sent into space.
Credit is due in part to producer Charles Holloman and Dave Harris' mastering for the album's crisp presentation, giving it a warm tone without being over-polished.
Bless These Sounds do their best to showcase their talent for songwriting through varied instrumentation, while keeping the music diverse and retaining a signature sound through the vocals. One of the best local debuts I've heard in a while.