The Monthly Mixtape (Vol. 0)

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So, as you can probably guess from mine and Akhil’s near total absence from the site, things have been a little slow around here lately. It’s anyone’s guess what our founder’s excuse is (our once frequent Skype chats have become less so-miss you buddy) but I’ve been distracted by other freelance projects. I recently(ish) did some interviews with bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Metric for Chicago Innerview magazine and some blogging for The Chicago Independent Radio Project that I’m pretty proud of. Still, it’s eaten into time I’d otherwise have spent keeping Gamevolution up and running, and that makes my heart heavy. That’s why I’m going to commit to posting here once a month for the next year.

It’s funny the alchemy that has to occur to get you working on a given project. Writing about mixtapes is not something I’d pursue if my purpose was gaining exposure and building my portfolio. There are a lot of perfectly reasonable arguments against mixtape culture (“you’re just expressing yourself with other people’s self expression”) but in a world where I’m just trying to post consistently and I’m writing primarily for myself and maybe a few friends, those dismissals just don’t seem to mean as much. Mixtapes (or mix CDs, or flash drives crammed with music-whatever) are important to me. Hell, I have long-distance friends with whom I communicate primarily through mixtapes. I’ve poured my heart and soul into mixtapes. I’ve been as proud of a mixtape as I have been of anything I’ve written.

Plus, it’s not like Gamevolution doesn’t need all the content it can get, right? I’m looking at you Other Freelancers.

This first mix is one I made for a friend when I left Chicago. She hasn’t given me permission to use her name and I don’t feel like bugging her, so we’ll just leave her shrouded in mystery and call this “Mixtape Zero.” It’ll be a sort of dry-run. In the future I’d like to write little profiles of the mixtape’s recipients.

So, now that I’ve Overexplained my way out of my insecurity, let’s get to the tracklist.

This lineup is a little Tame Impala-heavy because that band is the reason I made it. I was closing up shop at my old job and playing Lonerism over the speakers when one of my co-workers expressed interest in hearing more. I burned her Lonerism, Currents and the mixtape above.

The first thing I did with this mix is violate a golden rule I set for myself: never start a mixtape with a track that starts an album. Somebody already thought of starting with “Crystal”-be creative and find a way to start with someone else’s middle or end. This might seem like a weird thing to get hung up on since mixtapes are all about appropriation to begin with, but on the same hand, as long as you’re stealing you ought to steal in as original away as possible. I’m not going to do this again.

“She Don’t Use Jelly” is a fun little Flaming Lips song from the early 90s. It doesn’t sound anything like the Flaming Lips as I know them (Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots and whatnot.) and I like that. There’s enough psychedelia on this mix already, at least for my tastes.

“Kenosha” is the first song on this mix that I really love. My home state of Wisconsin doesn’t get a ton of songs written about it (shout out to “Milwaukee” by The Both.) and that little bridge near the end is vintage Allison Crutchfield.

Swinging from a double-henge/
meet up with your friends from college/
and think about me when you see her/
but I’ll be in Milwaukee on the last day of the summer…

Her lyrics always sound like half a story to me, or half a conversation you overhear from a distance. Filling in the blanks draws you in.

God damn I love it. O.K., moving on…

Next, we’ve got “Apocalypse Dreams” by Tame Impala. That’s a great song, but the transition from “Kenosha” is probably my least favorite on the mix. It feels like we lose a lot of energy. Next we’ve got “Destroy Me, I’m Yours” by Shelshag, labelmates to Swearin’, and “Foreign Object” by The Mountain Goats. “Foreign Object” is from Beat The Champ, a concept album about the early days of pro-wrestling. That album was probably my most played of the summer, so keep an eye out for more of it. (I’m guessing “Werewolf Gimmick” and “The Ballad of Bull Ramos” will crop up on a mixtape sooner than later.) Next, we’ve got “Right Wing” by Priests. I love this band and wanted to include them on the mix, but I had trouble finding anything that would blend. As a result, I picked a sort of neutral song. I regret not finding a way to cram “And Breeding” or “Doctor” in there somehow. Ah well. Next time.

Bojack’s theme is the first of two songs from T.V. soundtracks to make the mix. This is unusual for me and I’m not sure why it happened. Maybe because the mixtape’s recipient is a big anime fan? To be fair, Patrick Carney deserves credit for writing a really incredible instrumental. I maintain that one of the reasons Bojack is so addictive is that it’s so much fun to watch that theme song again and again.

After that we have a Tame Impala sandwich with The XX as the bread. Maybe that seemed appropriate because The XX seem sort of sterile whereas Tame Impala is lush and trippy? The second song from a T.V. soundtrack snuck in too, “Aruarian Dance” by Nujabes. I guess it’s the… Mustard? Or something? Anyway, for some reason you can’t find “Aruarian Dance” or any of the other songs from the Samurai Champloo soundtrack anywhere. It doesn’t play on Spotify, and while iTunes has a song with the same name it’s not the right one. You’ve got to go to Youtube.

Our third act starts with Sleater-Kinney’s Modern Girl. As I write this I’m realizing that I tried to keep hard edges largely out of this mixtape. I could have just as easily used “Rollercoaster” or something else from The Woods, but I was trying to keep things relatively subdued. Maybe I wanted the more psychedelic stuff (Tame Impala, TV On The Radio, Xray Eyeballs) to punch a little harder and I knew it wouldn’t do so if it had to compete with a lot of hard rock-that’s what screwed up that transition between “Kenosha” and “Apocalypse Dreams.” Ironically, Father John Misty follows this with the closest thing that this mix has to an actual love song. Most of the songs from I Love You Honeybear, the album Chateau #4 is from, are sarcastic. “I Love You Honeybear”-sarcastic. “The Ideal Husband.” Not really. However I think Father John Misty is actually being sincere when he says:

I wanna take you in the kitchen/
lift up your wedding dress someone was probably murdered in…

Plus that line always makes me laugh.

After TV On The Radio’s “I Was A Lover”, the mix starts to wind down. I don’t really have a reason for it to be on here other than that I’ve had it on heavy rotation for years now and it goes well with all the Tame Impala. After that we’ve got Amanda Palmer’s “The Killing Type.” The album version is fine and gels better with “I Was A Lover,” but the acoustic version she did at NPR is absolutely brilliant. Do yourself a favor and listen to that version (and her entire Tiny Desk Concert for that matter).

It’s funny-I originally intended for Jake Bugg’s “Broken” to lead into Frightened Rabbits “Heads Roll Off.” That would have made a lot more sense-some self indulgent melancholy leading into a hopeful spoonful of pop-philosophy that reminds us of the ways in which life carries on. As it stands, the whole mixtape ends on a sort of down note. “It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm.” Well, that’s true enough I suppose, but it leaves a bitter aftertaste. Maybe I changed it because I was still sad about leaving Chicago. Or maybe this is too morbid a collection of songs to wrap up in a neat little bow.

Yeesh, what a downer. Hopefully next time I’ll be a little more comfortable in my new digs and less likely to bum everyone out. Doubt it though. Anyway, see you next month!


Writes primarily as a means of avoiding eye contact.