More Thoughts on Mixtaping in the 21st Century

memorex dbs gif

I know, I know… they call it making a playlist now.  You grab a few tracks from Spotify and gather them together and call it done.  Where it used to take a good couple of hours to make one on a 90-minute cassette, now it only takes an hour, if that.

As I’ve explained before, my current mixtape creation process is by way of copying mp3s into a new folder, shuffling them into some semblance of order, and retagging them accordingly.  I’m keeping it old-school by having a sort-of-physical end result instead of a playlist.

I’ve noticed over the past few years that one thing hasn’t changed:  the urge to make a mixtape usually comes from hearing a specific song that I truly love.  For instance, my current obsession with Bob Moses’ “Heaven Only Knows” has inspired me to throw the next Listen in Silence mix together.  From there I’ll think a bit about what other songs caught my attention over the last few months.  They’ll just as often be tracks I’ve been hearing on Indie617 or SiriusXM as they’ll be deep cuts from newer albums I’ve downloaded.  The rest of the process is still the same, asking the same questions: what’s the best opening track?  Closing track?  Which songs segue the best?  Which ones sound awkward?  The only thing really missing is writing out the tracks on the c-card.

Do I listen to these after I’ve made them?  Sure!  I listen to them a lot, actually, just as I always have.  I listen to them during writing sessions, during the Day Job, or when I’m at the gym.  And they’re great to listen to on long flights as well.  I’ll even listen to older ones I’d made a few years previous.

I don’t share them as much as I used to, though.  Back in high school I’d give my buddy Chris the track list or make a copy of it for him.  I used to make the occasional mixtape for my then girlfriends of course, but for the most part I made them for my own enjoyment.  And that’s cool too.  Come to think of it, I should probably start posting some of them here.  I haven’t used my Spotify account in ages, so perhaps it’s time to dust it off and create some of my mixtapes for your enjoyment!

Songs from the Eden Cycle, Vol 5 (Under Construction)

What’s that, you say?  Is this an official follow-up to the original four compilation volumes from 1997-98?  Didn’t I make a bunch of semi-official compilations for the trilogy over the next decade and a half?  Am I just recycling the same damn mixes over and over again at this point?

What’s the diff, anyway?

Well, the original Songs from the Eden Cycle mixes were made when I was writing The Phoenix Effect and were used to get me inspired, rather than songs that were assigned to specific scenes (with a few exceptions).  The follow-up mixes, on the other hand, were when I wrote and revised the Bridgetown Trilogy and were specifically focused on those stories.

Thus, this new “Volume 5” is a return to the original reason for the series: music to get me inspired to write the new Mendaihu Universe book(s).  Like the original four, these will be mixes that will be made over an extended stretch of time, as certain tracks pop up.

Here are a few that I’ve gathered so far…

Blonde Redhead, “23”. This song popped up on my radar in 2015 when I was playing around with MU story ideas, and caught me at the right moment with its unrelenting, twisting power. Beauty and tension at the same time.

Kasabian, “Club Foot”. I’m surprised I never put this song anywhere on any of my major compilations other than a half-assed one I threw together in 2005, because it’s one of my favorite badass bass lines. Also surprised I never used it in any Mendaihu Universe stories, either. Admittedly the video (again, one of my favorites) did give me a bit of inspiration as well.

U2, “The Blackout”. Say what you will about U2’s last two albums, personally I still think they’re the best and strongest albums they’ve had in years. Pretty sure they’re both going to get a lot of play when I start writing the new stuff.

Editors, “No Harm”. These guys consistently blow my mind with each release. In Dream was quite the dark affair — not as creepy as In This Light and On This Evening, but emotionally raw — and got a hell of a lot of play when I was revising the original trilogy. Pretty sure it’s gonna get play here as well.

Dot Allison, “Message Personnel”. This track actually dates back to the original TPE/trilogy sessions and popped up on one of the “Mendaihu Universe” mixes, but I’ve chosen to add it to this one because it’s the soundtrack to one of the first scenes I’d come up with for the new story.  This is one of the few exceptions where I had a perfect song in mind for a specific scene.

The Horrors, “I See You”. I think I need to look into this band more, because they totally slipped under my radar until I heard their Luminous album a few years back. I love their dark post-punk sound, which fits in quite nicely with what I’m trying to achieve with the new story.

I’m still working on this one right now, and it is in fact a mix of newer and older songs (note: the original four volumes did in fact have the same type of content as well).  With the exception of maybe one or two songs, the rest of these haven’t been put on an official Eden Cycle mix as of yet.

Yes, I know…I’ve got two other novels I have to finish first before I can get anywhere serious with this new Mendaihu Universe novels, but it doesn’t hurt to get an early start with the notes and the soundtrack, right?

Thirty Years On: May 1988

May 1988: A good portion of my closest friends are graduating quite shortly, and will be taking off in various directions for their college careers.  Thus starts the era of me being a moody bastard for about six years.  Meanwhile, after about five years of recording songs off the radio and creating my own proto-mixtapes, I finally decide it’s time for me to create my own mixes straight from my own growing collection.  I call them ‘compilations’ instead of ‘mixtapes’ because it sounds more professional, considering how detailed I get in creating them.  Thirty years later I’m still making them, digitally.

Wire, A Bell Is a Cup Until It Is Struck, released ?? May. The second album in their ‘beat combo’ era, the band moves closer to their eventual electronic experimentation, using samples, loops, and treated instruments. I played the hell out of this album for a good couple of years after it came out.

Colin Newman, It Seems, released ?? May. In tandem with the above, Wire co-lead singer Newman dropped an even more electronic and experimental album. While the Wire album is more rock oriented, this one’s for sitting back and listening.

Heavenly Bodies, Celestial, released ?? May. A somewhat obscure album featuring vocalist and 4AD friend Caroline Seaman (who would pop up on a few This Mortal Coil albums) and a few ex-Dead Can Dance members, it’s a proto-darkwave album with a moody groove to it. “Rains On Me” got some serious airplay on a lot of the college stations when it came out.

Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Nothing Wrong, released ?? May. The noise-punks from Leeds released an excellent album of sludgy, growling alt-rock that might not have been to everyone’s tastes, but those who did like it (like me) absolutely loved it.

Living Colour, Vivid, released 3 May. Loud, abrasive, political, funky, humorous, and absolutely amazing. Lots has already been said about this album, and it’s all true. I got to see these guys at UMass Amherst in 1989 (it was part of MTV’s college campus tour, with the Godfathers opening up), and they put on one hell of a great show.

Depeche Mode, “Little 15” single, released 16 May. The last single from 1987’s Music for the Masses. It’s also one of my favorite tracks from it due to its amazing dynamics, starting off quiet and delicate and ending up Wagnerian and bombastic. It’s one of those songs you need to hear in headphones to get the full power of it.

Fairground Attraction, The First of a Million Kisses, released 16 May. It took me years to finally buy this album, but I remember the above track getting played incessantly on WMDK and the other AOR stations in the area. A fun and irresistibly catchy tune. The rest of the album is great too!

Compilation: Stentorian Music, created 20 May. The first of many compilations was an ongoing experiment of a themed mix; this one featured songs from groups like The Sisters of Mercy, Love and Rockets, The Cure, and The Screaming Blue Messsiahs among others, and designed to be played loud. It was put on a 60 minute tape and it came out reasonably well, considering.  Not bad for a first try.

Compilation: Preternatural Synthetics, created 20 May. Yeah, even then I knew I was getting a bit ridiculous with the titles, but it was just something for fun, after my titling the old radio mixtapes with corny ‘Love & Rock & Roll’ titles. This one was a 90-minute tape featuring all synth and/or electronic-sounding bands, such as Pet Shop Boys, New Order, Depeche Mode, and so on. It’s a perky mix, and rather enjoyable!

The Timelords, “Doctorin’ the Tardis” single, released 23 May. A ridiculous single from the KLF/Justified Ancients of MuMu/JAMMs/etc. gang.  Mixing Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll Part 2” and the Doctor Who theme, it’s one of those earworms that the college crowd loved.

Camper Van Beethoven, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, released 24 May. Another college rock band that went from indie (Pitch-a-Tent) to major (Virgin) in 1988, this record was indeed beloved by a quite a few fans, both old and new.  I particularly loved this single, which also got a lot of play on the AOR stations.

Morrissey, “Everyday Is Like Sunday” single, released 31 May. Say what you will about his current nutjob shenanigans, his early post-Smiths records were fantastic. This second single from Viva Hate was another ‘borrowed’ single that popped up at the radio station I worked at. I soon fell in love with the gorgeous deep cut “Will Never Marry”, which would end up on quite a few of my future compilations.

The Sugarcubes, Life’s Too Good, released 31 May. This album was an instant hit for the college crowd, with its eclectic mix of often bizarre lyrics, infectious melodies and the balance of its two lead singers: the pixie-like Bjork and its weirdo horn player, Einar. Not to mention its dayglo album cover! Another band I got to see at UMass Amherst around that time.

Next Up: June 1988!

Songs from the Apartment Complex

garden of words apartment

from Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words

New mixtape/mp3 playlist!  This one’s Songs from the Apartment Complex, and I have to say this is probably one of the quirkiest mixes I’ve made in a while.  The Apartment Complex story (still working on the title, folks) has evolved into an unexpected direction for me.  Unlike previous book-centric playlists where most of the songs are there to set a mood, many of these tracks here are aimed at specific characters and what kind of person or being they are.  Hope you enjoy it!

  1. The Sound of Arrows, “Stay Free”
  2. U2, “Get Out of Your Own Way”
  3. Ra Ra Riot, “Water”
  4. Beck, “Dreams”
  5. Elbow, “Firebrand & Angel”
  6. Gang of Youths, “What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?”
  7. The Naked and Famous, “A Still Heart”
  8. U2, “13 (There Is a Light)”
  9. Embrace, “Love Is a Basic Need”
  10. The Sound of Arrows, “Don’t Worry”
  11. Shame, “Friction”
  12. Elbow, “One Day Like This”
  13. GoGo Penguin, “Strid”
  14. Eels, “There I Said It”
  15. U2, “You’re the Best Thing About Me”
  16. The Sound of Arrows, “Beautiful Life”
  17. Love Tractor, “We All Loved Each Other So Much”

EDIT: As you may have seen over at Welcome to Bridgetown, I’ve put the Apartment Complex story on hiatus as I’m having even more problems with it than I thought, and need to put it aside for a while. Frustrating, yes. VERY frustrating. But I’m still keeping this up, because I think it’s a pretty interesting mix, and something I’ll listen to when I come back to the project. [And I *am* coming back to it — I just don’t know when.]

The Singles 2017

Entry #1…the 2017 best-of compilation! Same mix rules apply as per the last few years.

Tape 1, Side 1
1. Spoon, “Hot Thoughts”
2. The New Pornographers, “High Ticket Attractions”
3. Japandroids, “Near to the Wild Heart of Life”
4. Elbow, “Magnificent (She Says)”
5. Cosima, “To Build a House”
6. Arcade Fire, “Everything Now”
7. Grizzly Bear, “Mourning Sound”
8. Portugal. The Man, “Feel It Still”
9. St Vincent, “Los Ageless”
10. LCD Soundsystem, “Tonite”

Tape 1, Side 2
1. Minus the Bear, “Last Kiss”
2. Radwimps, “Zenzenzense [Movie Version]”
3. Beck, “Up All Night”
4. U2, “You’re the Best Thing About Me”
5. Nothing But Thieves, “Sorry”
6. Sylvan Esso, “Just Dancing”
7. UNKLE, “The Road”
8. Rainer Maria, “Lower Worlds”
9. Alvvays, “Plimsoll Punks”
10. The Sound of Arrows, “Stay Free”
11. Decomposure, “Cordillera: Let’s Go Back to the TV Screen”

Tape 2, Side 1
1. The Districts, “If Before I Wake”
2. Cold War Kids, “Love Is Mystical”
3. The Jesus and Mary Chain, “Amputation”
4. Spoon, “Can I Sit Next to You”
5. Dishwalla, “Give Me a Sign”
6. The Charlatans UK, “The Same House”
7. Depeche Mode, “Where’s the Revolution”
8. Slowdive, “Star Roving”
9. Gorillaz, “Saturnz Barz”
10. Future Islands, “Ran”
11. Weezer, “Feels Like Summer”
12. Arcade Fire feat. Mavis Staples, “I Give You Power”

Tape 2, Side 2
1. Lydia Ainsworth, “Ricochet”
2. Radiohead, “Lift”
3. Wire, “Short Elevated Period”
4. Sylvan Esso, “Die Young”
5. Broken Social Scene, “Halfway Home”
6. Alt-J, “In Cold Blood”
7. The War on Drugs, “Pain”
8. Grandaddy, “Way We Won’t”
9. Maxïmo Park, “Get High (No, I Don’t)”
10. The The, “We Can’t Stop What’s Coming”
11. The New Pornographers, “Whiteout Conditions”

Tape 3, Side 1
1. Gord Downie, “Introduce Yerself”
2. Colony House, “You & I”
3. Alice Merton, “No Roots”
4. Hollerado, “Born Yesterday”
5. The Beatles, “Penny Lane [Stereo Mix 2017]”
6. Minus the Bear, “Robotic Heart”
7. The National, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness”
8. Temples, “Certainty”
9. The Sound of Arrows, “Beautiful Life”
10. The New Pornographers, “Avalanche Alley”
11. LCD Soundsystem, “American Dream”

Tape 3, Side 2
1. Gang of Youths, “What Can I Do if the Fire Goes Out”
2. HAIM, “Want You Back”
3. Royal Blood, “Lights Out”
4. Wolf Alice, “Yuk Foo”
5. Tricky, “New Stole”
6. Jeff Lynne’s ELO, “Twilight [Live]”
7. Liam Gallagher, “Wall of Glass”
8. Death from Above, “Freeze Me”
9. Ride, “All I Want”
10. Slowdive, “Falling Ashes”
11. Gorillaz, “We Got the Power”

Coming up: Entry #2, the end-of-year favorites lists!

New Vacation Compilations

anime music listening

As always, when we’re going on vacation, I always create a new compilation or two to listen to during the flights.  I’m a little behind in creating these, so they contain tunes from most of the spring and summer of 2017 (including a few reissues).

Here’s the playlists, with the YouTube links where available.  Enjoy!

Walk in Silence XIX

Side 1
1. Cold War Kids, ‘Love is Mystical’
2. The Drums, ‘Blood Under My Belt’
3. Overlake, ‘Winter Is Why’
4. Spoon, ‘Can I Sit Next to You’
5. Mutemath, ‘Hit Parade’
6. The Charlatans UK, ‘Different Days’
7. Sylvan Esso, ‘Die Young’
8. Dishwalla, ‘Give Me a Sign’
9. The New Pornographers, ‘Avalanche Alley’
10. LCD Soundsystem, ‘American Dream’

Side 2
1. Radwimps, ‘Zenzenzense [Movie Version]’
2. Lydia Ainsworth, ‘What Is It?’
3. Wire, ‘Short Elevated Period’
4. Imagine Dragons, ‘Believer’
5. 311, ‘Too Much to Think’
6. The Charlatans UK, ‘There Will Be Chances’
7. Day Wave, ‘Wasting Time’
8. Bush, ‘Mad Love’
9. Future Islands, ‘Ran’
10. Slowdive, ‘Falling Ashes’
11. Gorillaz, ‘We Got the Power’

 

Untitled XXIII

Side 1
1. Ride, ‘All I Want’
2. Future Islands, ‘Cave’
3. Liam Gallagher, ‘Wall of Glass’
4. Lydia Ainsworth, ‘Ricochet’
5. Wire, ‘Brio’
6. Royal Blood, ‘Lights Out’
7. Alt-J, ‘In Cold Blood’
8. U2, ‘One Tree Hill’
9. Alexiane, ‘A Million On My Soul [Radio Edit]’
10. Maximo Park, ‘Get High (No, I Don’t)’
11. Big Wreck, ‘Skybunk Marché’

Side 2
1. Radiohead, ‘I Promise’
2. Cold War Kids, ‘Can We Hang On?’
3. Phoenix, ‘J-Boy’
4. Toro y Moi, ‘Girl Like You’
5. 311, ‘The Night Is Young’
6. Panda Riot, ‘Ghosting’
7. Au.Ra, ‘Above the Triangle (ii)’
8. Sylvan Esso, ‘Just Dancing’
9. Slowdive, ‘Sugar for the Pill’
10. LCD Soundsystem, ‘Call the Police’

Yet More On Making Mixtapes

memorex dbs gif

Yes, I know I’ve gone on about making mixtapes how many times here?  Bear with me, I’m about to go on just a bit more.

Every now and again I return to my catalog of mixtapes — that is, the mp3 recreations — and give them another listen.  By now I can tell which ones worked for me and which could probably have used a bit more planning.  Not that I’m going to change any of them, though…they’re a specific part of my past, and changing them now would only turn them into something different.  [Case in point, when I remade a few of them in 1999 and 2000, I was missing a few songs on each and replaced them with different tracks from the same era.  The mix worked just as well, but it didn’t feel like a true recreation…it felt like a ‘remastered reissue’ instead.]

As I’ve mentioned before, around 2014 I chose to reinstate the mixtape rules when making new mp3 mixes: double batches of roughly 45 minutes each, just as I would on one of those Memorix DBS I 90s you see above.  This forces me to think further about the flow of the music and the balance of the mix.  The upside to this is that the end result is a pretty solid and well-flowing mix.

The downside?  Well, I seem to still be throwing songs that don’t quite fit into the context of the rest of the mix.  They’re good songs, they just don’t quite work with the rest.  I’m thinking the main reason for this is that I’m no longer building the mixtape the true old-fashioned way, dubbing from tape or cd or vinyl, listening all the way through the song before adding the next one.  I’m just that little bit distanced from the mix, just enough where I don’t always catch when it doesn’t sound right.

I’m making up for it with these last few mixes by taking that extra time to select the music I think will work best, and listen to a rough set list so I can get the songs in the right order.

Why do this in this digital age, you ask?  Who makes mixtapes anymore?  Well, these are for my own enjoyment.  I listen to them at the gym, on long plane rides, during my writing sessions, and during Day Job hours.  I’ve only ever shared my mixtapes with a few others, and in truth I’ve only made maybe four or five tops specifically for other people.  I’m merely continuing the art of mixtape making as I know it.