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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
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+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
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+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
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+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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+ Espers - II
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44.1 kHz Archive

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The Stratford 4
Love and Distortion
Jet Set

Most evenings, I am relieved to escape the interminable workday and return to my cozy studio apartment in northwest Washington, D.C. But, every once in a while, I'll have a night, or a string of nights, where sitting in my apartment — reading, listening to records, cooking, watching movies, doing the things I usually love — just isn't enough. Instead, I'll be sitting on my bed and, maybe because of stress or anxiety or some other unknown cause, I'll just feel sad. And when I feel sad, there is only one thing I can do: call my mom.

Chris Streng of San Francisco's Stratford 4 understands this feeling completely. On the band's sophomore effort, Love and Distortion, he captures post-collegiate confusion perfectly on the album standout, "Telephone." The song opens with a lonely, distorted guitar-pedal fanfare that gives way to a sprawling tale of a 22-year-old who can only find meaning and comfort in his record collection. The band submerges the tale in a soundscape of amorphous guitars and simple syncopated rhythm work and lets the story take center stage. Funny and sad and triumphant, the protagonist phones his mom for advice, and she suggests, "Don't forget Bob Dylan, don't forget the Stones, and don't spend Saturday night all alone." It is only once the musically tasteful protagonist takes his mom's advice and starts going out every night that he finds he doesn't need to call home so often.

On "She Married the Birds," Andrea Caturegli's thumping bass drum combines with Sheetal Singh's dexterous bass work to lay the foundation for Streng and Jake Hosek's hooky guitar licks and baby-blanket-like chord progressions that simultaneously call for fist pumps and the fetal position. Streng's affected indie-rock tenor lilts as he delivers such poignant/comic lines as: "I went to confession/ And I had nothing to confess/ They said what's wrong with you?/ You used to be such a mess."

The mood shifts on "The Simple Things Are Taking Over" as Singh's bass line again takes center stage, setting a mysterious tone that allows hypnotic guitar flourishes to repeat and play off of one another, seemingly infinitely, until they give way to a expansive, rocking chorus, and eventually a ripping, distortion-infused bridge. Streng's lyrics convey sincere desperation and confusion over loss of a lover and the life changes that result: "I don't want to be your friend, but I don't want this to end."

There is nothing revolutionary about the Stratford 4's sound. In different moments, their songs bring to mind the ambling, simple midtempo constructions of Luna, sans Dean Wareham's nasal voice, and the swirling guitar rockers of the Stone Roses. And they don't shy away from their influences — like on the aforementioned "Telephone" when Streng references everyone from Carole King to Galaxie 500 in a brief sonic resume.

Throughout Love and Distortion, the Stratford 4 convey through their music that sounding like other good bands that came before them isn't a bad thing. They comprehend that there is something both comforting and compelling about good music, that it can be both (sometimes simultaneously) sad and comical. And like a call home to mom, some nights all we really need are comforting and compelling rock songs.

by A.K. Gold

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