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Love and Distortion

the Stratford 4

Sometimes you see a band in San Francisco and wonder why they're not bigger than they are. You wonder why they're opening a bill rather than headlining the Fillmore. The Stratford 4 is one of those bands. I keep waiting for their faces to grace the cover of Magnet or Spin, or hell, Rolling Stone. But they still seem to be one of San Francisco's best-kept secrets.

The local quartet was formed in 1999 when vocalist/guitarist Chris Streng was on the hunt for a new project, his old bandmates having just formed Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Chris was introduced by a mutual friend to three musicians in need of a singer and the fate of S4 was sealed with Jake Hosek (guitars), Andrea Caturegli (drums) and Sheetal Singh (bass) rounding out S4's moody sound.

The Stratford 4 sound like a band you've heard before, but chances are, it's a band you love. Start with a solid layer of noise pop, add some Yo La Tengo style atmosphere, rev it up with fuzzy My Bloody Valentinesque guitars and you get the idea. It's music to get lost in: swirly guitars and enveloping feedback, sweet melodies and story-like lyrics.

S4 debuted with The Revolt Against Tired Noises in the Summer of 2000, a lush album that showcased their melancholy epic sound. Tracks like "All the Fading Stars" and "Rebecca" quickly became mainstays on CD mixes of all good indie rockers. Tired Noises was followed by the 4-song EP This Could Be Heaven and in April of this year came their sophomore full-length, Love and Distortion, which was full of just that. Streng's lyrics meander through hopeful crushes, dying relationships and those lonely Saturday nights when despair creeps up so stealthily even the Belle and Sebastian album you're listening to can't keep it at bay. From dirty guitar-driven rock songs to space pop ballads Love and Distortion is a satisfying blend of S4's eclectic brit-influenced sound.

The Stratford 4 make wintry music, perfect for this blustery weather. So make yourself some cinnamon toast and a mug of hot chocolate and check them out before the rest of the world uncovers our secret.