Love the Stranger


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Love the Stranger Review

by Marcy Donelson

The fourth album by ambling folk-rockers Friendship, Love the Stranger represents a handful of firsts for the project. With each of their albums up to this point featuring different production credits, it's the Philadelphians' first to be produced by Bradford Krieger (Horse Jumper of Love, Nova One), it's their first to credit songwriting to all four members instead of just Dan Wriggins, and it's their first to find each member playing at least four instruments -- a true collaborative effort. It's also their first album to see release after the acclaimed full-length debut of 2nd Grade, a very different indie band featuring Friendship's Peter Gill and Jon Samuels. Last but certainly not least, Love the Stranger marks Friendship's Merge Records debut after a steady climb through the indie ranks. While typically low-key and rustic in nature, with touches of (mostly) atmospheric keyboards and electronics, the album is further distinguished by the use of brief instrumentals that make up about one-third of its extensive track list. Love the Stranger begins with the ruminative "St. Bonaventure," which finds Wriggins' craggy, conversational delivery entering with the lines "Still swinging on my vine/Still getting up every day/Keep from brooding/Keep it moving/To the end of the week," over lap steel, sparse guitars, simple bass and drums, and part-time vocal harmonies. This sets the tone for much of a weary group of songs in the drudgery of the everyday, although it never quite stagnates. Lusher entries, for instance, include the crunchier "Ryde," which adopts the elemental percussion and minor intervals of a work song until it breaks open into an organ- and strings-accompanied version of heartland rock. Harmonica surfaces alongside more animated guitar lines on the relatively upbeat "Chomp Chomp," which contains the phrases "loving the stranger" and "love is a stranger" ("everywhere you go"). Elsewhere, "Alive Twice" puts spacy effects and echo at the front of mix, overtop piano, keys, and a measure-marking bass drum. As for the instrumentals, "Love's" is a rare extended-chord exploration, and "Kum & Go" incorporates Southwestern Europe-style guitar and accordion. By the time the 17-track album ends with the driving "Season" followed by the King of the Hill-quoting "Smooth Pursuit," however, it has never quite abandoned its back-porch feel or relentlessly existential point of view, closing on the words "Down here in the greasy mess/Hoping for the best."

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Friendship 03:51 Amazon
2 Friendship 02:49 Amazon
3 Friendship 00:20 Amazon
4 Friendship 04:22 Amazon
5 Friendship 03:52 Amazon
6 Friendship 00:55 Amazon
7 Friendship 03:49 Amazon
8 Friendship 02:49 Amazon
9 Friendship 00:30 Amazon
10 Friendship 03:38 Amazon
11 Friendship 03:11 Amazon
Friendship 01:04 Amazon
13 Friendship 03:44 Amazon
14 Friendship 02:49 Amazon
15 Friendship 00:43 Amazon
16 Friendship 03:27 Amazon
17 Friendship 03:07 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick