2004 Was not a good year for music. Kid Rock was on top of the charts and digital file-sharing had eviscerated the music industry. The Stratford 4, a critically acclaimed quartet of shoegazers from San Francisco, were riding the waves of uncertainty as best as they could. Their previous album, Love & Distortion, was hailed as a noise pop classic by Rolling Stone and they’d gotten high praise from Spin and Pitchfork. After a year of legal hassles with Jetset (their previous label), they were finally in New York City, making a record with pop icon Ric Ocasec for Elektra Records. Safely ensconced inside Electric Lady Studios, they recorded their major label debut, the unwieldy-if-presciently titled “Keep Your Crazy Head On Straight”. The record was completed, mixed, mastered, artwork finalized and a release date was set. When WEA (the Warner Brothers family of labels) was sold, The Stratford 4 and everyone else on Elektra were dropped. The band went on tour, first with their old friends BRMC then with Beulah, hoping the exposure would generate some interest in the album. They played shows with the Libertines, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Clinic, Luna, Camper Van Beethoven and others, but months of stress from legal woes had taken their toll. The singer quit the band and the music froze, suspended in midair. 2015 is an interesting time to be a musician. The chaos of file-sharing has settled into a handful of reliable online outlets and, amazingly, vinyl has made a resurgence. In January, Sheetal Singh (the bass player) has lunch with Chris Streng (the singer) in Nevada City. They joke about putting out the record themselves but when Sheetal gets home she contacts Jake Hosek (guitar) and Andrea Caturegli (drums). Everyone is back on board, this record needs to finally be heard. An eleven year gap between albums is not that long by shoegazing standards. While ’Keep Your Crazy Head On Straight’ may not have the cultural cache of the great ’lost albums’ like ’Smiley Smile’ or ’MBV’ or even ’Chinese Democracy’, it’s still an amazingly accurate portrait of a specific time and place. New York City, 2004: post-9/11, post-Strokes, pre-iPhones, pre-MySpace even. The Stratford 4 existed in a self-contained bubble between the bursts. They were Americans playing Brit-Pop, bridging the gap between the original shoegazers and the current revival. This record reflects all the moods and manias of the band, from the urban excitement of New York City to the pastoral hum of California. Who knows what the future holds, but here is a sonic spyglass, crafted long ago yet still pointed forward. Bands come and go but records are forever. Free the Stratford 4!