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Playing Favorites is an interview series where creative people pick a topic and tell us their five favorite things about it. Opinions expressed in this series are those of the interviewees and do not reflect the opinions of S.W. Lauden or The Big Takeover.
Mo Troper is a singer/songwriter and writer from Portland, Oregon. His latest album, Dilettante (aka “Mo Troper IV”), is a stunning 28-song collection full of biting lyrics and sweet power pop hooks on tracks like “Perfect Song,” “Better Than That” and “X-Ray Vision.” Pitchfork described the album as a “creative explosion” filled with “…the type of referential, attention-grabbing songwriting from somebody with a lot of thoughts on music.” His previous releases include an ambitious full-album cover of The Beatles’ Revolver. His writing has been published by Vice, The Believer, Paste, Willamette Week, and more. I asked Troper to share a few of his favorite Portland albums of all time.
Their second and final LP, Don’t Take Our Filth Away (released in 2012 on Topshelf Records), is still one of my favorite hi-fi, headphone records (listen to that panning!). Duck are among a handful of math rock bands that could mix real emotion with twinkly, athletic guitar-playing. I always expected them to blow up but I think the Portland music scene was still preoccupied with steampunk and synth-pop shit, so they didn’t have any influential, local advocates that could have helped them get to that next level. Still, DLBD! have a huge cult following—I know because I just recently joined a DLBD! cult.
4. Mr. Bones by Mr. Bones
I still listen to this record all the time. This band put out a couple, but their self-titled tape from 2015 is my favorite. It kind of sounds like some martians tried to recreate Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque with martian guitars and recording equipment, but that only sort of captures it. There’s a big Magnetic Fields and K Records influence on the vocals and lyrical content. The melodies are catchy as hell but it’s sort of a half-finished idea dump and there’s just something so otherworldly and “off” about it to me. And that’s why it’s so charming!
When it came out in 2015, some people described it as pop-punk—or God forbid “garage rock”—but it’s totally power pop. The two best songs off this record are “You Don’t Have a Skull of Your Own” and “Roma #2,” which are each three minutes exactly. Some of the best music to ever come out of this city, will be disinterred and held up as this massive lost artifact in 15 years.
3. Sabonis by Sabonis
This one’s technically only an EP, but kind of like the Home Is Where record that came out last year it feels like such a complete statement that I never really considered its runtime. Sort of a “supergroup” formed around the songwriting of Maya Stoner and Edward Beaudin, already scene vets at that point despite being in their early ‘20s, this band also seemed like they were poised to break out in a big way, but never did. I think there was a pretty toxic internal dynamic, which you’d never guess from listening to this record or watching them play—they were the coolest motherfuckers ever, every show they played in Portland was packed. You don’t need any of that context to appreciate this record—it’s cocky and sort of sloppy indie rock made by kids who were cocky and sort of sloppy. There’s a clear emo and slowcore influence, but it’s entirely its own thing and I can’t imagine a band like this existing anywhere other than Portland.
2. Guitar Romantic by The Exploding Hearts
This pick is obvious and uncontroversial—The Exploding Hearts were the greatest power pop band to come out of Portland and Guitar Romantic is one of the greatest power pop albums, period. It’s snot-nosed in all the right ways and places, it sounds like it could have been made in the late ‘70s without ever coming off like some revivalist fashion punk thing. The songs are impeccable, the pacing is perfect, and to my ears the electric guitar tones are unbeatable. It doesn’t matter what style of music is currently in vogue—this will always be one of the coolest guitar albums ever and it will make you feel like the coolest person alive just by listening to it.
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