Into the stratosphere

by Nathan Hall

On first go around, the Stratford 4’s “Love & Distortion” comes off as yet another indie release everyone in college radio will go gaga for and the rest of us schmoes will forget without a second thought. Luckily, looks can be deceiving. The band’s sophomore release, which was produced by Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie fame, features a female rhythm section that’s not too hard on the eyes itself.

Semi-associated with fellow San Francisco Bay Area residents Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, “Love & Distortion” recalls the noise pop fuzziness of My Bloody Valentine, the druggy psychedelic excess of Yo La Tengo, and the languid hipster disaffection delivery of recent Mekon’s output.

Wait Ö stop the presses! This CD is worth dipping into your already vastly depleted financial aid slush fund solely for the incredibly sexy standout track “Tonight Would Be Alright.” This song is easily the saddest, most moving ode to a late-night booty call since the Afghan Whigs reinvented despondent adulterous barnburners with their downhearted cover of TLC’s “Creep.” Opening with a sample of a heartbreakingly sultry answering machine message, the single encapsulates stinky sweat, nervous exhaustion, youthful insecurity, erotic joy and mindless boredom in one neat, convenient, four-minute package. Not too shabby for a bunch of turtleneck-wearing hippies.

Nathan Hall welcomes comments at [email protected]