Apr. 3rd, 2013

[identity profile] amethysting.livejournal.com

Letters to Cleo

In my experience, perfecting the art of the mix tape takes both time and practice.

By this point, I've had a lot of practice.  Like reading old diary entries, I can't help but feel a little embarrassed about the mix tapes I made years ago.  They broke many of my self-imposed mix tape rules...they ran too long or featured more than one song by the same artist or, perhaps worst of all, didn't transition smoothly from song to song.

I remember the difference between making a mix tape and making a mix CD.  The cassette involved more math--timing the length of each song to ensure that nothing would be cut off on either side of the tape; hitting the "play" and "record" buttons simultaneously and waiting for the tape to unravel a bit; carefully choosing the song that would start things off on both Side A and Side B; painting the cassette itself with glittery nail polish and writing the track listing on the narrow lines of the fold-out cardboard sleeve.

When my Dad got a CD burner, I would make a numbered list of all the songs I wanted to include on my mix and hand over a stack of CDs.  I loved the fact that the resulting mix was on a CD, but didn't like the feeling of being somehow removed from the creative process of physically compiling the mix myself--that and my Dad tended to emphasize the fact that burning the CD took a lot of time and that the blank discs were costly.

Throughout high school, CEGEP and university, most of my friends were not really into music (or, not into it to the extent that I was)--beyond listening to the radio and owning a handful of popular CDs.  Making a mix tape for a friend was something special--a way of sharing the music I loved and establishing, what was to me, a kind of dialogue or firm bond within the friendship.

Letters to Cleo appeared on my mix tapes with regularity.  While Sarah McLachlan was my favourite artist when I was in high school, Letters to Cleo was my favourite band.  Again, I owe my Dad for this.  I'm not sure if I have my story straight, but I seem to remember him bringing back Go! for me after seeing the band perform in Boston.

It was love at first listen.  Go! featured all of the hallmarks I was drawn to at the time: a female lead singer; introspective but catchy lyrics; an unintimidating raucousness.  "Disappear" is a stand-out track on the album and has always been one of my favourites.  It was often my go-to introductory track for LTC virgins; a perfect blend of goes-down-easy pop-rock paired with knocks-the-wind-out-of-you-lyrics, "If you could disappear tomorrow, who would care?"
[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com

Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums
A Perfect Circle

: Making a mix is, uncontestably, an art form. All the songs have to bleed together in just the right ways; you can't shove peppy pop beside introspective goth. You are not creating a playlist for a party, which will inevitably consist of the same 100 songs safe for overlapping tastes. When you make a mix, you're creating a soundtrack -- maybe to a moment, or a mood; an experience or a quotation -- but whatever the inspiration might be, a mixtape has meaning, relevance -- direction.

While I frequently make seasonal playlists, mainly to keep track of songs I loved at particular times of year, I don't make a lot of mixes, per se -- at least, not for myself. It's a seriously labour-intensive procedure; I have many aborted attempts languishing in iTunes. But, one thing I do still do -- and still love to do -- is make mixes for other people.

Making a successful mix for another person is a tricky task, for a few reasons.
A) You want them to like it, so you need to know their music taste fairly well.
B) You want them to find new songs, so you need to diversify from what you already know they like, and find them similar stuff from your library.
C) You want them to be exposed to something new, so you need to carefully decide how "new" that can be (i.e. full-hog breakcore or gentler glitchpop?).
and D) You want your own taste to come through, because this is your music, and your identity is going to shine through, here. Especially for people with whom you haven't had endless conversations about music: your music choice is a public emblem, and you WILL be judged. You are what you listen to.

So whenever I make a dedicated mix, there are a few artists who almost always find their way onto it (I used to challenge myself to keep both Bowie and Placebo off the tracklisting), and there are a few songs that everyone who's received a mix from me now has. This is one of them.

"Counting Bodies..." is my staple dedicated-mixtape song. It's not that it's the song I would choose to represent my music taste if I could only pick one -- but it's the song I want other people hearing as that representation. As a mix of alt-rock, electronic, industrial chugging, raw lyrics and vocals, it encapsulates so much of what I've listened to throughout my life, and it does it well. It's absolutely rife with all the layers and layers and layers I find so integral to a fabulous song. It's weird, too, and that's also important: I love those rare, magic songs that are basically impossible to dance to, but so throbbingly good that you can't help but move your body. As all the synths start wailing weirdly around the 3:30 mark...no one could look sane when they're dancing to that. And good. You shouldn't look sane when you dance; not when you're really dancing.

This song finds its way onto my mixtapes because it fits in almost any tracklisting, yet it doesn't fit in anywhere. The mark of something truly exceptional. And, to add a cherry: not only is this a mixtape staple, it's an iPod staple. "Counting Bodies..." is the only song I put on my iPod when I got her, in October 2008, and STILL haven't taken off. It's always appropriate. It's always amazing. It always gives me pause. It always makes me want to share it.

(And how fucking amazing is 2:55?


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