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You Win

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Album Review

You Win recalls the down-tempo confessionals of (Smog) or Red House Painters — folk-based rock with gently swelling crescendos that raise the songs just enough above room temperature to be memorable. Singer/songwriter Brice Randall Bickford II's timeworn warble is a natural fit for the lyrical themes of resignation and acceptance, but it's the contrast with the arrangements — highlighted by Chris Eubank's cello and Megan Hughes' violin — that makes the best songs stand out. Bickford conjures lonely road blues on "The Cascade Range" while Bickford's and Neil Allen's guitars trade lines with cello and violin over a driving beat; "I Tried to Repair" balances elegiac piano runs with the plaintive harmonies of Bickford and Heather McEntire; the languorous, Hammond-driven tempo of "Being Shown Blues" culminates in a gorgeous banjo-and-strings outro. Three of the nine songs clock in over six minutes, while three more near that mark, suggesting that an edit or two probably wouldn't have diminished the final product. But with its melancholic sound and themes, the Strugglers' third record works well as a companion piece of the Painters' Old Ramon or D. Braxton Harris' forgotten gem Deep Dark Black. Like the dusky painting that adorns its cover, You Win's music evokes the solemn shades of something that's run its course, leaving in its stead bittersweet remembrances and the hope of a new day's redemption.


Formed: 2001 in Durham, NC

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

The country-tinged, midtempo songcraft of the Strugglers is primarily composed by frontman Brice Randall Bickford, who founded the group in 2001. With help from a rotating cast of musicians, Bickford began crafting an atmospheric sound that was equally indebted to Will Oldham, Red House Painters, and Neil Young, with tremulous vocals to match. The debut album Done by the Strugglers arrived in 2001, and Bickford slowly fleshed out his band's melancholic material on such subsequent efforts as 2003's...
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You Win, The Strugglers
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