Restored 28 March 2017, Original 22 May 2015
As you gear up for summer and the heat, pool parties, and late nights thereof, I hope you remember to keep things cool, like your toes, your drinks, and your tunes. And since I’m sure you didn’t come here for new flip-flops or drink suggestions, I’ll get to the music.
In sunny Del Mar, California, there runs a road called Stratford Court. It is from that road the founder(s) of Stratford Ct. netlabel got their name. Not being the most informative name ever, a general description is included: “a chill street that brings like minded artists together”. Of course, there are numerous styles of chill music from lounge to hip-hop, but where Stratford Ct. shines is in the synthwave-chillwave-vaporwave continuum.
For the uninitiated, these genres are (loosely) typified by electronic elements (pads, synthesizers, etc.), downtempo beats/melodies, and nostalgia harkening back to the ’80s, all cloaked in a dreamy, hazy, lo-fi aura. Lyrics won’t necessarily be present, and when they are, I’ve appreciated them more for their atmosphere than their content. Some tracks are more energetic, making for good outdoor music, while other tracks lend themselves to closer quarters.
After listening to most of Stratford Ct.’s catalogue, I’ve found abundant variety in their artists. But let’s start with one, HELLO AGAIN.
One look at the cover art for HELLO AGAIN’s LP 24 Ever will reveal everything you should expect. The sleek, white, lined background; the boom box, the Miami Vice font. All of it screams ’80s retro. While the spacey image and indiscernible human figures on the boom box’s screen suggest an excitable psychedelia. With few exceptions*, every track on this album makes for good grooving.
One of the more upbeat tracks is “Back”. A funky bass line hits highs, mediums, and lows throughout the track, while complemented by shakers, hi-hats, and soaring synths. The vocals sound like they’ve passed through a cloud of smoke and sing phrases like “I need to come baaack,” and “No one knows where I’m going, no one knows what I’ve done.” You can bounce all day with “Back”.
Once we’re tired of hopping around, we can take the energy down a notch with “Lazy”. Soft electric keys open the track, followed shortly by a slapping percussion. It’s like snapping to attention in the middle of a drugged or drunken stupor at a party. You look around at the other bodies, and a voice inside your head echoes “I feel like…everything is crazy tonight.” It’s not an especially profound, but it is relatable, especially for those of us who’ve found ourselves in such a situation. “Lazy” trudges on slowly, yet intentionally. The beat is subdued and supplemented with myriad little clicks and chimes. It’s definitely a track for the night’s quiet moments.
These are just a couple stand-outs on the album. Others like “Gone”, “Black Seagull”, and “Not so High” pull their own weight when it comes to keeping parties rolling, which I can confirm from personal experience. I only hope you guys to enjoy it too.
HELLO AGAIN – “Back”
HELLO AGAIN – “Lazy”
24 Ever download page at Stratford Ct.
*The track “The Man Who Lost Control” is melancholy to the point of being out of place on this album. I suppose it may be cathartic for the artist, and I commend his willingness to be vulnerable before the world, but as it is, I feel it’s inconsistent with the album’s tone.