THE LINER NOTES:
I miss making mixtapes. That statement will surprise no one that knows me or anyone that’s been following this blog. I miss making mixtapes, but maybe more, I miss having the gaps of time with nothing to do where I COULD make mixtapes. Where I could just sit at my desk or on the floor, piling CD cases into tracklist order as I listened to the song currently being transferred from disc to tape. I have nowhere near that much free time anymore.
Hours. It would take hours to put a mixtape together. Not just a couple hours, but at least three, sometimes four hours. And you couldn’t watch TV while putting the mix together. You couldn’t read a book between the pressings of “record” and “pause.” That four hour block was only about the music.
For me, the mixtape was often built as I went. I would have a decent idea of the bands I wanted, and usually a few keys songs that HAD to be included, but I was never locked into a sequence of songs. I had a standard method for my mixtape tape creation, which allowed for sampling multiple tracks before deciding on the next best song. And it was always about how the beginning of that next song will sound next to the fade out (or hard stop) of the previous. Transitions were very important to me.
I’m less of a fan of transitions in real life. Especially the big, obvious ones. My transition back to Los Angeles (or really, we could just say “to Los Angeles,” because I never actually established anything there the first time) happened so quickly and was so heavily based on emotion that there was little time to consider if it was the right thing to do. I was in love, so nobody was going to convince me that I was wrong.
But by the end of September, after being there a few months, the exciting newness was fading and September 11th had just happened. The reality of this big change was quickly setting in. I wasn’t reconnecting with any of my old friends, I was unemployed and I didn’t even have a car. The whole world had just made an enormous transition and, yeah, I was starting to freak out.
Thank god I still had plenty of free time to make mixtapes.
THAT’S GREAT, BUT HOW’S THE MIX?:
- “The Universal” – Blur
- “Bastards of Young” – The Replacements
- “Glowworm” – The Apples in Stereo
- “Tonight” – Supergrass
- “The Naughty Villain” – Elf Power (listed as The Minders on the sleeve)
- “Dumb Dumb Dumb” – Teenage Fanclub
- “Stop Breaking Down” – The White Stripes
- “Crossroads” – Dodgy
- “Distopian Dream Girl” – Built to Spill
- “Beyond Belief” – Elvis Costello
- “Way Out” – The La’s
- “Not the Same” – Ben Folds
- “Rings Around the World” – Super Furry Animals
- “The Best of What’s Around” – Dave Matthews Band
- “Better Things” – The Minders
- “Dog Gotta Bone” – The Beta Band
- “She’s Automatic” – Rancid
- “Greyhound Bus” – The Moldy Peaches
- “Rollerskate Skinny” – Old 97’s
- “Cut Your Hair” – Pavement
- “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You” – The Lemonheads
- “That’s Entertainment” – The Jam
- “Ballad of the Lonely Argonaut” – Beulah
- “Dumb Jam” – James
- “Change in Speak” – De La Soul
- “Something For Me” – Ocean Colour Scene
- “Barely Legal” – The Strokes
- “I Want You Back” – The Jackson 5
- “Paranoid Android” – Radiohead
- “I Spy” – Guster
- “Do It All Over Again” – Spirtualized
- “Yeh Yeh” – They Might Be Giants
- “Hollow” – Remy Zero
- “The Charm” – The Cosmic Rough Riders
- “Safe” – Travis
In a lot of ways, I feel like this is my first L.A. tape. Not the first one I made here, but the first one that is distinctly of Los Angeles. This comes from the songs included here off the albums purchased after the move. As we move forward in time, I imagine we’ll find that all the subsequent tapes become top heavy with, and possibly eventually filled with, post-move albums.
But let’s start with some pre-move music, much like Side A does.
Blur’s “The Universal.” What a fantastic way to open a mix. A slow fade up to some reserved strings and then crooning vocals, all building to a rousing, horns-laden chorus. It’s a song of sheen and pristine. Which makes the roughshod rock of The Replacement’s “Bastards of Young” a perfect follow-up.
Again, this kind of transition/juxtaposition was something I was very conscious of when making my mixes. Especially if the mix was for me. Very rarely would I go from a a ’90s Britpop song to a ’90s Britpop song, or grunge to grunge, or hip-hop to hip-hop. And I believe this will be especially true going forward, as my music collection was expanding and the variety of choices made it easier to do.
There are other “Me Classics” from from the pre-move collection: Rancid, Dave Matthews Band and Built to Spill are all here. And there are quite a few “moments before the move” albums represented here. The Strokes and The White Stripes we’re just starting to make waves in early 2001, and I was jumping on board. This is right at the head of the “garage rock” revolution, or whatever it was called. Which basically means, “The Strokes and The White Stripes had some success, so let’s sign all the other bands that sound vaguely like them. Like we did with grunge!” But, come on. Nobody sounds like The White Stripes.
Ooooh! I want that art on a t-shirt!
Another “moment before the move” album I’ll highlight gives us this mixtape’s namesake. In June of 2001, Travis release their third LP, The Invisible Band. I spent hours lying on my bedroom floor listening to this album. Travis was the band Carrie and I had listened to most often, seeing them live together at least three times in less than a year. They soundtracked our courtship and breakup and long distance relationship. So, of course, now that I was with her in a new city and state, I leaned on Travis to make me feel at home.
FUN FACT: While “Safe” is the song that ends this tape, I often use the song to open Travis mixes I make to introduce the band to someone. Let me know if you want one.
But it’s the Post-Move Music that stands out here, even in its smaller number. This is because when I hear the songs, I can better place the moment in time when it entered my life. I spent a lot of money to make my cross-country move, on plane tickets and shipping and now new rent. So now, instead of eating meat and purchasing a car, I spent what little money I had on continuing to grow my record collection. So there is a clear starting point for this post-move music.
Though an older album (1996), I bought Lemonheads’ Car Button Cloth in L.A. And the song “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You” is a favorite. The melody is sweet and dreamy, while the lyrics nonsensically combine turns of phrase with dark references. But it’s the the chorus that always gets me: “If I could talk, I’d tell you… You are far and away my most imaginary friend.” I don’t know what it means, but it sure does melt the heart.
Sometimes I try to get into a band because I think I have to– they’ve been around for a while, they’re critically acclaimed, everybody’s talking about them. There was a time this was true of They Might Be Giants. I had first heard of them in high school when my friend Jeff was listening to them. But I wasn’t buying a lot of music in high school, and what music I was buying wasn’t anything underground or indie or whatever TMBG was considered at the time.
So when I was perusing the aisles at the Virgin Megastore and saw the band had a new album out, I felt now was the time to make my first They Might Be Giants purchase. It was their eighth official full length, Mink Car, and it was fine enough. I shouldn’t have started with their eighth, but it was on sale. It’s not an album I go back to often, and they’re not a band I have put any retroactive effort into. It says something, I’m sure, that the song of theirs I chose to put on this tape is their cover of someone else’s.
PLEASED TO MEET YOU:
Starting late into the discography again, my first Spiritualized album was Let It Come Down, their fourth album. I remember the aforementioned Virgin Megastore near Carrie’s work was pushing it, with huge posters and a sale price. I think I bought this album and their previous one at the same time. Might have been a buy-one-get-on kind of deal. Space rock, as they are often described, isn’t immediately my kind of thing. But remove that shortcut descriptor and this is just a band making moving music. And that I do like.
Elf Power was a band always mentioned in articles about the Elephant Six Recording Company, which was a collection of musicians that spawned others bands I already enjoyed like Neutral Milk Hotel, The Apples in Stereo and more recently, The Minders. As I often did, I came to Elf Power for the first time late, with their sixth album. They surprised me, because their sound wasn’t what I expected based on the three E6 bands I already knew. It took a little time, but they did grow on me.
WAIT. WHAT? WHY?:
As I wrote earlier, about four paragraphs above this, sometimes I try to get into a band because I think I have to. I kept reading a lot about The Moldy Peaches after I moved back to Los Angeles. The music magazines I was reading, especially those from the UK, were hailing them as the next big thing, the start of a new wave of freak-folk. And since I generally pick up multiple albums at a time, their debut, lo-fi disc likely came home alongside the slickly produced Spiritualized and They Might Be Giants albums. So their home-recordings sound didn’t grab me at the time. I ended up selling the CD months later in order to buy something new… probably Oasis. I dig their aesthetic now and wish I had held on to that album.
THE SUPER ULTRA MEGA SONG:
This week’s pick was also on the last mix, but got beat out by the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” But I knew there would be another chance for it to take the Super Ultra Mega Song spot. And here it is, on the very next tape.
It’s quick return is because I absolutely love this song. I put it on a lot of the tapes I made for my self and others from 2001 to whenever it was I stopped making regular mixtapes. Listening to “Rollerskate Skinny” these past several weeks while driving to and from work, I still got excited every time it came on. This song makes me feel good. This is a song I love to sing along to. It’s in my vocal range, the lyrics are clear and fun, there’s no guilty pleasure. It’s just pleasure. I sing this one loud, windows down.
If you’ve never heard it, here’s your chance for play number one. I hope it leads you into the thousands eventually, too.