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Behind the Counter: Jackpot Records (Portland, OR)

Each Tuesday, Behind the Counter speaks to an independent record store to ask about its recent favorites, best sellers, and noteworthy trends.

Sporting two locations, (Fabulous!) Jackpot Records has served Portland’s independent music community for 13 years as both a new/used CD, LP, and DVD retailer and a record label that reissues lost treasures. We recently caught up with Burnside manager Patrick Dennehy to get some staff picks and see what has been trending.

What are some of your recent favorite albums? Your least favorite / most overrated?

Concerning newer things, Lisbon by The Walkmen, Beach House’s Teen Dream, The Lone Star Lowlands compilation, Sound of Wonder compilation, and Underwater People’s Winter Review. I pretty much stick with doo wop at home, so I’m glad that I work in a record store. My least favorite remains Indian Reservation by Paul Revere and The Raiders. It has no current rival.

Which albums has your store sold the most over the past month?

It’s been a pretty good time for hazy, summery pop stuff — Beach House, Best Coast. The Big Boi album has done real well. I guess that things that start with B sell well for us.

How was the record label formed (2004) and what do you release?

The label saw the light when we realized that we had the ability to do so. Getting exciting records onto people’s turntables that were resigned to relative obscurity due to scarcity or increasing collector’s prices is the general idea. We started with re-issuing the 1970 LP by professional wrestler / Viking enthusiast Beauregarde, which is a mix of psych and soul that’s not turning up on a Lawrence Kasdan soundtrack anytime soon. From there it was The Wipers, Jandek, MIJ the yodeling astrologer, and anything else that we feel is criminally under-circulated.

What makes your store unique?

How we enjoy listening to music is how we enjoy selling it. The effortlessly catchy sits comfortably next to the relatively un-listenable here. The only obligation in regards to what we carry is that it be something that someone might enjoy and that it be music.

Our walls aren’t lined with posters for sale of Bob Marley kicking a soccer ball with a doobie in his mouth. We have no spinning rack of edible magnets or whatever. That allows us to stay focused on music, which is a constant pursuit of freshness. That also applies to our stores’ presentation, promotions, and in-stores. We have zero interest in being a curio trapped in amber.

How do you maintain an independent music store with corporate and digital competitors?

I don’t know what benefit worrying about what CDs Refrigerator Land is carrying would be, and I certainly don’t spend my nights in the basement trying to un-invent the Internet. By maintaining an inviting, informative, and tactile environment while making sure that our stock is interesting, reasonably priced, and ever-changing, we’ve had no problems unlocking the door every day. I think people with an album under their arm will always enjoy the vibration of wandering among other people with an album under theirs.

How do you support independent musicians?

A good amount of what we stock new comes from musicians that I’m sure would be considered independent. As for actual independent musicians, musicians with no backing or support whatsoever from a label other than the one they started in their bedroom and named after their dog, we do try to carry LPs and CDs by up-and-coming or going-nowhere acts that we think are good and would like to get into people’s hands. We also do in-stores with bands when we come across something exciting.

Do you promote zines or visual art?

We certainly promote those sorts of things but stop short of offering them for sale. Portland has good shops that specialize in both, and I think that we would be slightly out of our element trying to maintain relevance in those worlds.

What’s the worst album that you’ve had to special order?

Nothing shockingly awful comes to mind. I do have a Tenacious D CD that’s been on hold for about three years. They may have had second thoughts.

What is the music community like in Portland?

There’s certainly no shortage of people being musical here. If you like your music bearded and stool-sat or Johnny Thunder-ed and lying in its own vomit, you’re in luck most nights, somewhere, between 10 and 2. People here seem to be supportive of your right to be amazing or absolutely awful. There’s little pressure to be the next big thing because no one knows what that is and everyone seems to think that they’re it.

Have you noticed any recent trends in the Portland music scene?

The music scene here seems to be diversifying itself. It doesn’t seem to be exclusively young men in decaying T-shirts playing a budget version of Modest Mouse. We have Blood Beach, who do a gritty throwback thing that effectively puts to use mandolin and theremin. There’s the Dungeon Brothers, who do a druid/psych strain of hip hop. I abhor novelty for novelty’s sake, and bands seem to be finding a way to be unusual and legitimate simultaneously.

Behind the Counter: Jackpot Records (Portland, OR) Each Tuesday, Behind the Counter speaks to an independent record store to ask about its recent favorites, best sellers, and noteworthy trends.