If you’ve never received a mixtape from someone then perhaps this might go over your head. I also admit that my view of the mixtape may be seen through rose tinted glasses. I may have been spoiled since the first mixtape I ever received was from my boyfriend at the time and it set the bar. A bar that to this day has not been surpassed.
I was just beginning to step away from my punk foundation and had started to explore more metal bands. I received this tape out of the blue one day, a handwritten track list on the back. This tape basically laid a new foundation for me and opened up so much over the years. My initial introduction included bands such as Bloodlet, Dillinger Escape Plan, Shellac, and Cave In, to name a few. Some of the albums these songs belonged to are still on my list of all time favorites.
Somehow I managed not to wear the tape down from repeated plays. I began hunting for the records and 7”s these songs came from. Each band brought me to another which snowballed over time. After I moved away from that small town, I received another mixtape from someone. I tried to get past the distaste of being handed a CD and not a cassette tape. But my initial reaction was on point.
The mix was terrible. No flow to the songs, just a random mix with no highs and lows. And I couldn’t get past the thought of what would drive someone to make a CD full of California pop punk songs for a girl who said her favorite bands at the time included Isis, The Locust, and Neurosis.
I sound like a snob. I assure you I am not. I was incredibly grateful to receive a mix. I have a different view on mixtapes, however. It’s an art form. A balance. In the past when I have made a mix it’s been hours of looking for the right songs, putting together a track list that you think the other person might like. Making sure one song flows well into the next and the final product is something that flows well overall. I could never take a random scattering of whatever pleased me and throw it together with no order, no flow.
It could be that I think too much about the process. I like to get lost in these things because you don’t make a mix for just anyone. So if you were making a mix, what would be your opening song?
I can already tell you what mine is. My opening track would be “Prayer to God” by Shellac. I know I’m not the first to think that this is hands down one of the most romantic songs ever written.
I suppose my final question is whether the mixtape is extinct. With technology now you can share playlists, but is the era of handing over a physical creation gone? I have not been inspired to make anyone a mix in a long time so I am genuinely curious. Plus my ghetto blaster was laid to rest after countless years, apartments, and cities and I have yet to replace it. So please feel free to share your mixtape stories.