Some thoughts on the mixtape (and Mixtape 12 – March, 2015)

For the past year, I have been creating a monthly mixtape on my Spotify account. I love mixtapes. I love making mixtapes. I love the thought that goes into a well-crafted sequence of songs, intended to be heard in the order they were placed. It is an art that is largely lost in today’s shuffle mode world of hastily thrown together playlists.

Don’t get me wrong – the shuffle mode playlist certainly has its place. Every two to three months, I compile a list of a few hundred songs from my music library that I listen to on shuffle mode when I can’t decide on an album or artist. It’s like my own personal radio station (you know, the Alternafolk, surfsoul, Rock & Roll Revival Meeting). But sometimes, I like a little more intentionality to my mix. That’s what made the mixtape, back in the day, so great. You couldn’t shuffle the cassette. The songs you put on your tape were now going to be listened to, in that order, for the life of the cassette (unless you scotch taped over the tab-holes and recorded over your mix, God forbid). It was that permanence that forced mixtape aficionados to carefully consider which songs to include and, just as importantly, in which order to put them. Mixtape creators were mixologists. It’s listeners were purveyors of an art form.

The mix CD, though capable of providing similar magic, made it easy to take the art out of the mixology. Theoretically, you could simply through together a random playlist of songs on your computer and then click “burn to disc” with not further thought. That is sloppy mixtape making. The nature of original mixtape making forced the creator to listen to the entirety of each song being included on the cassette. Sometimes, this lead to a mid-song realization that something wasn’t working, and a particular song would need to be removed. This forced the creator to stop, rewind, and re-record over that song. Could this process be a bit tedious? Sure. But an artist isn’t afraid to suffer for his craft. And payoff came when the mixtape was complete, and could be properly enjoyed forever by its intended recipient (even if that was the artist, himself/herself).

So, it is in the spirit of the original concept that I now present my monthly Mixtape series. These are intended not be shuffled, but rather to be listened to in the order they are presented. It’s not that there is a thematic element involved (though that may be the case for stretches of each piece), but rather that each twenty song set is designed to flow together in a way that makes the “mixtape” sound better as a whole than it does as a sum of its individual parts (much like a great album). The songs are culled from recent releases I have been checking out, as well as just about anything that has come before. Some of the songs are familiar, many are probably not.

Which brings us to this months offering, Mixtape 12 – March, 2015. I hope you enjoy it!

A few words about this month’s mixtape:

1. “Green Shirt” by Elvis Costello – A favorite old tune from A.C. and The Attractions. Chosen mostly because it has “green” in the title, and this is March. Which closes out the St. Patrick’s Day portion of the mix.

2. “Shakin’ All Over” by Wanda Jackson – Great cover, great party song.

3. “California Nights” by Lesley Gore – Gore passed away earlier this month. She was a 1960’s teen-pop sensation. When I was a little kid, I would watch reruns of the old Adam West Batman series. Gore appeared on the show as Catwoman’s sidekick, and performed this song for her henchmen. I was smitten.

4. “California Nights” by Best Coast – Not a cover, but an amazing new song that sounds even better following its sugary-sweet namesake. And when Bethany Cosentino sings “I never wanna get so high that I can’t come back down to real life and look you in the eyes and say ‘Baby, you’re mine'” – it feels like she is pushing those words deep inside my soul.

5. “All Night Long” by The Mavericks – Great party song from the solid new album by Raul Malo and The Mavericks.

6. “Don’t Bring Me Down” by ELO – their biggest U.S. hit, reaching #4 Billboard in1979.

7.  “Friendship” by Pops Staples – So soulful, so good.

8. “Shake You Off” by Charlie Belle – This is a young trio out of Austin that sounds more like they could have come from London.

9. “(Did You Just Take the) Long Way Home” by Colin Hay – From Hay’s new album, Next Year People. This guy is a grossly under appreciated treasure.

10. “Psalm 42 (Hope in God) by Robbie Seay Band” featuring Aimee Norris –  I like to read Psalm 42, slowly, while listening to this beautiful and haunting track. “By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life.”

11. “Take You High” by Kelly Clarkson – Clarkson has just realized a really great pop album. Right now, this is my favorite track.

12. “Love You” by The Free Design – This is currently appearing on a commercial for United Airlines. Great little folk tune from this mostly forgotten family band from the 60’s.

13. “Darlin’ Be Home Soon” by The Lovin’ spoonful – This sounds like it could be a Dylan song. Not one of the first songs that comes up when remembering this band, but probably my favorite.

14. “When I Get This Way (Over You)” by Material Issue – For a while, it was really hard to track this song down. From the band’s second album, I remember playing it a lot during my college radio days, but years later couldn’t find it in any record stores. Even as the digital age unfolded, it took a while for this to become available. Another great party song.

15. “Give it Up” by Hothouse Flowers – Keeping the party going, with a great message to boot!

16. “Circle ‘Round The Sun” by Matthew E. White – I love a good Jesus song that comes from deep within the human heart, a place we can all connect with, and leaves Christian platitudes by the wayside.

17. “Bring Your Arms” by Kate Pierson – Now in her 60’s, the former B-52’s singer has delivered a pretty great solo album.

18. “America’s Sweetheart” by Elle King – The more I listen to King’s album, the more I love it. It’s gritty, fun, heartfelt, passionate, and as this song indicates, uncompromising. “What do you want from me? I’m not America’s sweetheart.”

19. “Here We Go” by Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors – An ambling, barroom sing-a-long from Holcomb’s latest record.

20. “Dream Baby Dream” by Bruce Springsteen – A cover of synth-punk duo Suicide. Kind of magical.

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~ by themattmorrisshow on March 22, 2015.

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