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Shirley Hurt, 'The Bells'

The self-titled debut album from singer-songwriter Shirley Hurt, whose real name is Sophia Ruby Katz, is replete with songs that are in patient search for clarity. Soft piano chords and Hurt's genteel voice set the foundation for "The Bells," a wondrous highlight and opener about love's charm when it remains elusive.

"My life is like a koan," she begins, seeking truth and her lover on the road, at the dinner table, in the sound of the titular instrument. There's a magnetic allure to Hurt's voice as she sings in different registers, like she's tracing the contours of her vocal range. It mirrors the investigative nature of "The Bells," which unfurls slowly but insistently — muted drums add contemplative heft, while faint male vocal harmonies conjure the spectral memories of a past relationship. Love is seductive, Hurt seems to suggest, when its concomitant emotions feel both crystallized in amber and as fleeting as the wind.

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Joshua Minsoo Kim