Mo Troper

2nd Grade, Hurry

21 And Over
Thursday, May 18
Doors: 8pm | Show: 9pm


Mo Troper is truly one of a kind, and that’s never been more apparent than on his fifth full-length, the winkingly titled MTV. Arriving hot on the heels of his 2021 full-length, Dilettante, the album finds the Portland, OR-based power pop extraordinaire diving further into home-recorded immediacy to make a record that feels like a strikingly direct conduit to the world of Mo–where heartbreak, hilarity, and hooks all go hand-in-hand.

“My third record, Natural Beauty, was super labored over,” Troper explains. “It was the total opposite of where I am now. It cost a lot of money and took a lot of time, and it just wasn’t really rewarding by the time it was done. So I’ve been less interested in doing that process again.” Most of MTV was written during, or in the immediate aftermath of, a lengthy tour and then quickly captured at home on an 8-track tape recorder. “I’m just really interested in writing songs–that’s the most fun part for me,” he says. “So when it comes to recording, I think the first pass is usually best. The more attempts I make, the more sterile things become. I’m just kind of pushing that mentality even further now”

The album opens with “Between You And Me,” a one-minute-long introduction that welcomes listeners to MTV with a fragile melody and a gentle beat before the drums kick in so loud and distorted that they’d envelope the entire song if not for Troper’s unshakeable knack for melody. The song’s cacophonous conclusion leads right into “I’m The King of Rock N Roll,” another cut of scrappy guitar pop that’s somehow enhanced by the sound of mics peaking and tape hissing. “I think there’s a bit of positive pressure when you’re working with tape,” explains Troper. “It feels a little more ‘now or never.’ The prospect of spending unlimited time on something isn’t really appealing to me right now, I know I’ll just overcook it until it loses the energy.”

Just when you think you’ve acclimated to its raw aesthetic, MTV hits you with “Tub Rules.” The thirty-second jingle never actually lays out any bathtime etiquette but does still serve to instruct the listener: buckle up, because MTV is picking up speed–varispeed that is. One of the album’s most interesting tools, the pitch-shifting technique involves a manipulation of the tape to change the speed and sound of a track, and has the side effect of adding an otherworldly quality to the music and vocals. Troper uses varispeed liberally throughout MTV, often pushing his voice into registers usually reserved for cartoon characters, but somehow this collision of surreal production and heart-aching melodies only adds to the pathos. “It started because I really drive myself crazy when I hear pitchiness in vocals,” Trooper explains. “So when I first started recording with an 8-track I realized that if I increased the pitch on everything I wouldn’t notice pitchiness anymore. So it was a very analog solution to a problem that could have easily been solved with a computer. But I do think it just adds a strange character to a track, and I’ve always been fascinated by that kind of stuff.”

MTV hurtles through 15 songs in just 31 minutes, with most of the tracks never even coming close to the three-minute mark. The sequence feels like a combination of a fever dream and a travel diary, intertwining tales of romantic longing with the ups and downs of cross-country touring. Songs like “Across The USA,” “Royal Jelly,” or “Coke Zero” unravel the headaches and heartbreaks, often alternating between unflinching emotional details and legitimately funny one-liners. “I feel like I’m just in this mode of rebelling against the expectation for artists to be emotionally or aesthetically cohesive,” Trooper says. “I think about all my favorite records and songwriters, and they’re often these people who would have really depressing stuff and then insane moments of levity that don’t get talked about as much. I want to make music that’s emotional but also campy or sarcastic or resonates in other ways. I’m like, ‘you know what, it’s all me.’”

That innate cohesion first and foremost comes from Troper’s astounding melodic sensibility. Even when MTV veers into its weirdest territory, he can’t help but dip into his seemingly endless supply of earworms–like on the unsettling-yet-sugary vignettes of “Final Lap,” or the frantic “Power Pop Chat,” which features indecipherably blown out outro vocals that still somehow carry a highly hummable tune. “To me MTV feels like a very wild recording, and I did want to make something that’s sort of aggressive and maybe even difficult, but in some ways it’s also the most organic record I’ve made,” Trooper says. “I just felt the same kind of freedom as when I first started getting into making music, and it was impossible to make the distinction between something that was a joke or an ‘actual’ song. It’s all wrapped up in the same package.”

The album comes to a close with “Under My Skin,” a song that manages to feel triumphant and melancholy all at once through only an acoustic guitar and some of Troper’s finest harmonies, all altered by varispeed to sound like a headtrip collaboration between 1964 Paul McCartney and a helium balloon. It’s a fittingly off-kilter ending and the perfect summation of Troper’s appeal: truly personal music–in all its beauty and strangeness–presented with so many irresistible hooks that even the most traditional power pop head will be left shouting, “I want my MTV!”


Ringing from hi-fi headphones and blown-out boombox speakers alike comes the overloaded guitar genius of Easy Listening, a record of rock ‘n’ roll daydreams and terminal boredom, and 2nd Grade’s long awaited second LP on Double Double Whammy. Like a blue slushy on a hot day, Easy Listening is a sweet respite. Like the Blue Angels touching down on the Las Vegas Strip, Easy Listening is impossible to ignore. And like a janitor mopping up beer on the floor of the Hollywood Palladium in 1972, hours after the Rolling Stones have finished “Ventilator Blues” and climbed onto the bus, Easy Listening knows the glory and cost of escapism, abandon, and the soul of rock ‘n’ roll. Philadelphia’s 2nd Grade (Peter Gill, Catherine Dwyer, Jon Samuels, David Settle, and Fran Lyons) is a band both obsessed with and worthy of rock stardom, and Easy Listening proves their status as virtuosos of the power pop renaissance.

Sonically and lyrically, Easy Listening pays tribute to a guitar lineage linking the Stones to the Flamin’ Groovies, to Redd Kross and Guided By Voices. With its spiraling hooks and handclapped quarter note beat, lead single “Strung Out On You” sounds like an alternate reality post-Radio City Big Star cut. In 2nd Grade’s world, music history is a prism, not a linear progression. Famous teens transcend time on the outro to “Teenage Overpopulation,” a shouted cacophony of names including Tommy Stinson, Lizzie McGuire, and Joan of Arc. The line between the love of an audience and that of a romantic partner is blurred on songs like “Hands Down” and “Me & My Blue Angels.” Across the album, hi-fi and lo-fi styles splice together; playful references and surreal hints of impossibility build a complex, believable world atop a foundation of simple and sticky melodies that resonate on very first listen.

As usual, 2nd Grade are generous with their album offerings, packing 16 songs on Easy Listening. Most tracks clock in around two minutes, almost indulgent compared to the average runtime on 2nd Grade’s debut 24-track LP Hit to Hit. On Easy Listening however, the band develops their theory of quantum teenage energy, composed of equal parts sincerity and swagger. Basement drums and bass run full speed ahead. Gill’s vocal deliveries range from sweet to snotty. Guitar performances from Samuels and Dwyer similarly alternate between clean power-pop jangle and lo-fi scuzz, dedicated above all to the band’s lodestar: riffs that rule.

Easy Listening doesn’t just reference its larger-than-life forebearers – it builds a multi-layered dreamworld of punk and rock mythology from beginning to end, allowing both band and listener to revel, at least for a moment, in radio star euphoria. “We’re MVPs of MTV/Don’t have to live like a refugee/We’re VIPs of VH1/Learning to fly and free fallin,” Gill sings on Track 1, “Cover of Rolling Stone.” Later, on “Planetarium,” Gill colors his starry daydream with everyday pathos: “My lawyer says not to talk to the press/but I just like the way that they listen.” Across the album, yesteryear’s guitar heroes show up as totemic symbols, transmuting their own worlds of meaning into new expressions in Gill’s overactive imagination.

For all its abundance, Gill’s imagination is also desperate. The brilliance of Easy Listening lies in its longing, and in the blindingly clear difference between the myth of rockstar ecstasy and the reality of ennui, stagnation, and addiction. Like anybody, the voice of 2nd Grade just wants somebody to listen and there’s nothing more human than fantasizing about the things we don’t have. Like 2nd Grade, we’re all children, “dreaming of dreaming of dreaming a dream.”


Hurry’s fourth full-length album, Fake Ideas, is an unabashed embrace of the power pop’s most charming signifiers — jangly guitars, big choruses, warm harmonies — but like many of the genre’s standouts, there’s something deeper to be found within the bright hooks. The album marries classic love songs with an exploration of Scottoline’s experiences while coming to grips with an anxiety disorder, and how those misleading thoughts, ideas, and feelings can create a false image of one’s own world. “Ugh,” he says, regarding being forced to provide that sincere description.

But sincerity is just as much a part of Hurry’s DNA as Scottoline’s wry demeanor. The Philadelphia-based band — made up of drummer Rob DeCarolis, bassist Joe DeCarolis, guitarist Justin Fox, and rounded out by Scottoline on guitar, keys, and vocals — formed in 2012, and over the years they’ve assembled a catalog of reliably great albums for fans of catchy, longing guitar pop. With their previous two full-lengths Guided Meditation (2016) and Every Little Thought (2018) the band earned praise from critical fixtures like Pitchfork, NPR, Stereogum, and more, as well as more unusual accomplishments like having one of their songs in heavy rotation in Gap stores. “It wasn’t even an upbeat song,” Scottoline says. “It was a pretty somber one. Why would people want to shop with that on?” Gap Inc. has subsequently closed a majority of its stores. There is no data showing the two are linked.

Fake Ideas was recorded with engineer Mike Bardzik at his studio, Noisy Little Critter, which is located in a Thorndale, PA, barn. The album maintains the band’s beloved anxiety-ridden affability as Scottoline leans into the influence of his songwriting heroes and further hones his knack for earworm melodies. “The last few releases I had been purposefully challenging myself to escape traditional rock sounds,” he explains. “This time around there has been a back to basics approach with both the songwriting style and instrumentation. We recorded the album to tape and there’s just a lot of rawness to it, but still with some very delicate and pretty elements.”

“It’s Dangerous” and “A Fake Idea” open the album with a one-two punch of shimmering guitars and undeniable hooks that would sound right at home during power pop’s chart-topping ‘90s heyday. The latter encapsulates the kind of honest observations about navigating love and mental illness that make up much of Fake Ideas. “The thoughts we have are only thoughts, and if you give them too much attention or make them too real, your entire grasp on your life can be distorted,” Scottoline explains. “Mental illness can make you truly believe things that aren’t real, and those ideas can steer your life in directions that can poison a lot of relationships.” Elsewhere songs like the frenetic, sub-two minute “Doomsday” and the sweeping, Noel Gallagher-esque “(Sometimes I’m About It, And) Sometimes I’m Not There” demonstrate Hurry’s willingness to explore a wide range of dynamics and moods within their guitar-driven foundation. It’s a welcome sense of musical and lyrical self-awareness that never gets in the way of a good time, like on the crunchy “Keep Being Yourself” where Scottoline interrogates the sardonic defenses that can sometimes get in the way of vulnerability and connection. “We waste so much time being ironic because we’re afraid of what people might think of who we really are,” he says.

Throughout Fake Ideas, Scottoline doesn’t shy away from that very human desire to feel comfortable within one’s own head. It’s an open-hearted admission of uncertainty that has resulted in Hurry’s most assured work to date. The album closes with “In My Very Old Age,” a meditation on acceptance and change that’s also a joyful blast of fuzz and effervescent harmonies. It’s an effective combination that not only sums up Fake Ideas, but also Hurry and their humble contribution to power pop’s enduring and comforting presence.

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