by Joshua Hoey (@reflectiveDIY)
Nathan Tucker is one of Portland, Oregon's more prolific indie rockers. When not drumming in post-rock combo Strange Ranger or DIY pop rock trio Snow Roller, he's cranking out high-quality 90s-style indie pop as Cool American. While his full length outings tend to be ensemble-based rock records, the Better Luck Next Year EPs feel more like loosely-tethered collections of sketches, but no less compelling.
Opener "17" feels like a nostalgia-soaked centerpiece. It's the most-adorned track, benefiting from layered vocals in the chorus, and lead guitar both sweet and sour throughout. "Happy You Said It" showcases Tucker's tasteful falsetto, which most vividly evokes Mac McCaughan's work in his Portastatic side project. It's a spot-on update of the Pacific Northwest bummed-out singer/songwriter stuff that was all the rage around the turn of the century.
The latter half of the record demonstrates Tucker's range by highlighting individual elements in turn. "Be Good" is a minute of keyboard drone and fuzzy spoken word. Closer "Focus" is the outlier here, and also perhaps the most compelling of the EP's six songs. It's built from clunky drum machines, powerful synth chords and that falsetto again, this time lightly autotuned. It's an alternative-reality radio hit, and one hint at what might be coming next from Cool American.