GCF Favorites Vol 3: Mo Troper, Mo Picks
Sabonis / “More Time”
A big part of the narrative constructed around Sabonis was that they were a Portland DIY “supergroup,” and while there is certainly some truth to that, the band’s big appeal, to me at least, centered around the fact that many of these songs were collaborations between Maya Stoner and Edward Beaudin, two equally great songwriters with seemingly incompatible sensibilities. This song—which features Maya on the hook and Edward singing the counterpoint—epitomizes that strange but ultimately beautiful tension. It’s one of the most immediately catchy songs in the GCR “canon.” Aside from my own work, of course.
Little Star / “For Goth Easter”
I think I speak for most people in Portland when I say that everything Little Star has released is good, but this is far and away the highlight for me. “For Goth Easter” is simultaneously really depressing and an amazing pop song, wholly justifying the Elliott Smith comparisons people have long made behind Dan’s back.
Turtlenecked / “Stradivarius”
Harrison is a “chameleonic” artist, which is a truly unique talent. This song is great on its own, but it’s really special in the context of Vulture, a kaleidoscopic patchwork of repurposed kitsch and disparate aesthetics. Most of the time, songwriters with this type of disposition (Bowie, et al.) are not good at writing “from the heart,” but with Stradivarius, Harrison proved that he could do that, too, which means he’s basically good at everything.
Cool American / “Every Little Favor”
Nathan Tucker of Cool American is one of the best lyricists I’ve ever known personally. He is great at crafting these effortless turns of phrase. He’s firing on all cylinders in this song, which, by my estimation, is a nasty little jab at an annoying scene person that causes my pathological bunker mentality to flare. Speaking of which, Nathan, if you’re reading, the lyric “grateful that you’ve taken the time out of your busy schedule” seems a little familiar, so don’t be surprised if you get a letter from my attorneys. It’s only business, bro!
Surfer Rosie / “Nerves”
Blake had been telling me that I needed to see Surfer Rosie for months, and when I finally did it was—weirdly—not in Portland, but at a bowling alley in LA that I am no longer allowed at. There are three terrific singers in this band, which is three more than most bands. The vocals in this song, specifically, are nuts.
Whitney Ballen / “Nauseous”
The first time I saw Whitney play was at the Ground Zero anniversary show in Seattle in 2014. It was so spellbinding that a few minutes into the first song, everyone stopped talking and sat on the floor. A couple of weeks later, I formally met Whitney when her and Jason Clackley played a solo duet show at the Dark Place, one of the shittiest house venues in Portland. It was equally spellbinding, and afterwards we all stayed at my parents’ house and took turns trying on my dad’s motorcycle jacket. Whitney’s music is a great argument in favor of “less is more”—and this EP in particular is like a really compact version of the types of records Mark Kozelek made before he became involved with the incel movement. I’m not ashamed to say her music has brought to me tears. I can never tell if listening to her makes me feel better or worse, but if therapy has taught me anything, it’s that those two things are usually one and the same.
Jason Clackley / “Eyes”
Jason and the rest of the Pacific Northwest already know I feel about him and his music, so I’ll try not to rattle on here. “Eyes” is a song that I saw Jason play many times before I had the privilege of being involved with this release, and it still breaks my heart. Much like Whitney, Jason has so much natural talent that he really doesn’t need a lot of words or complex song structures to get his point across. He’s apparently been working on a full length that’s stripped down like this forever, which I hope sees the light of day.
Our First Brains / “Frayed One”
A deeper GCR cut, no doubt, but still one of my all-time favorites. Our First Brains had a bit of identity crisis, as is young bands’ wont, but in retrospect I felt like it worked to their benefit—pop-punk is a genre characterized by snore-inducing uniformity, but by having three songwriters who were always pulling in different directions, OFB managed to dodge that bullet. I think this LP is really solid, but this is my favorite track on the record, and Caleb is an exceptional songwriter.
Boreen / “Garden”
I was really inspired by Friends when I first heard it. I first listened to “Garden” around the time I was beginning to feel pretty bored of the rock paradigm, and the instrumentation blew me away. Morgan is one of the best songwriters on Good Cheer’s roster, but he is certainly the best arranger. If this new record doesn’t make him famous, I sense he has a bright future scoring David O. Russell films.
Mayhaw Hoons / “Gangland”
Mayhaw and I were very briefly in a band together called TeenSpot that released one EP in 2013. The beginning of our creative partnership occurred at what was a very formative time in my life, and it seemed like a crucial point in his, too. (I was 20 and he was 30 at the time.) Before Asher started playing drums with TeenSpot, we were actually a trio, and Mayhaw and I would switch off on bass and drums. This song, which was originally written for TeenSpot, was the one exception—Mayhaw played drums and sang. It was our one slow, sort of dynamic song, and while it’s a shame we never got to record it, I’m glad it finally surfaced on Lime Green. Mayhaw and I used to write songs together sitting on his washer and dryer, and I’m still mining those "sessions"—every record I’ve released since 2015 has included at least one song that is a Mayhaw Hoons cowrite.