Not to go all NBA Finals on you, but energy in pop music is exactly like energy in a high-stakes sports game. A player of passion rises to the occasion, and it’s clear to the viewer which group wants it and which doesn’t.

So it is on the latest by the Portland band Marie Stella, “TRUST”: The taut little outfit hustles and sweats through a dense set with the look of champions.

“TRUST” unfolds like a really fun round of “Guitar Hero,” but with dialed-in players doing all the work for you. There are two and sometimes three mischievous rock guitar tracks swirling about the ears.

Despite the wall of sound, the mix allows a feisty interplay of elements. That the thing was produced with a foot on the gas pedal is clear from the machine drums in the opener, “Message From Limbo.”

Stella’s guitarchitecture is built on the steady two-by-four’s of power chords but filled with wild ambition, as though stadium-rock aspirations were packed in a garage-band jar. “Never” features Cure-era surf emo; “1985” rules like 1985, with three screaming Stratocasters.

The EP closes with a moody mini-epic, “Taken.” Guitars draft off of one another, the band is all business and, as though to underscore the sense of urgency, vocalist/bassist Sydney Bourke cries “no more shenanigans” in the refrain.

If there was a quibble to be had, it’s that Bourke sticks too cleanly to a polished vocal sound. Amid the rock chaos around her, it would be cool to hear her lose her composure and join the collective snarl.


Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.