Loose is a trio of local scene veterans who know how to keep things nice and tight, as evidenced by their new EP Haircut. The band plays jittery, jangling punk rock, full of sharp corners and sneaky hooks that sound like typical lo-fi fare until later, when you find them lingering in your brain long after your ears have moved on to something else.
That’s a testament to their knack for efficiency; at six tracks and just 10 minutes, Haircut is filled to the brim with a dense tangle of serrated guitar licks, tumbled rhythms, and no-frills vocal melodies. Loose’s sound makes sense, given its members’ most recent musical endeavors: Nick Everett (drums) played in catchy emo-punk outfit Blowout, Teal Bluestone (bass) fronted ambitious indie rock band Naked Hour, and Jeremy Murphy (guitar) made fuzzy math-pop with Riled. Thanks to shifting time signatures and Murphy’s lead vocals, Loose most closely resembles Riled, but with a bonus dose of sparkling charm.
Opening track “Bruce” veers between punk urgency and pretty contemplation, packing it all (plus a Springsteen reference) into 66 seconds. “Sports” runs more than twice as long, closing the EP with a restless guitar riff and a minute-long coda that’s unexpectedly slow and strangely affecting. The peak in between is “Heatstroke,” an ode to the importance of hydration that finds Loose sitting still long enough to sound almost like a straightforward rock band, somewhere near the midpoint between Modest Mouse’s agitations and the Strokes’ cool vibrations.
Elsewhere, “Subaru” chugs along proggily, lamenting the prevalence of its titular vehicle in Portland along the way. “Smile” feels like a post-punk take on twang, and Loose’s latent Pavement-isms surface in “Nevermind,” where Murphy sings, “Son, you know one day all your idols will die/Let me introduce you to a bad vibe” as drums pound and guitars jangle gloriously in the background.
The three-piece formed last summer in the back of a friend’s tour van, then coalesced when their previous projects fizzled out. A year later, Haircut establishes Loose as yet another Portland rock band worth watching.