Jeremy is the man behind the HI54LOFI empire, which includes one of my favorite blogs, internet radio/mix stations and twitter dot com presences. He buys more music- GOOD music- on Bandcamp than anyone I know. Seriously. It’s absurd. You need something new? Jeremy is the guy to ask/follow/lean on. You can go download the below mix for free right here.
I made two mixes. They are kinda the same (7 tracks in common), but they are also kinda different (the final FINAL Mixcloud one is 12 songs long and is a more ‘mixed’ mix; the original 8tracks one is 15 songs long and is your more standard ‘one track, then another track’ mix). Why did I make 2 mixes? Well, I’m glad I asked on your behalf…
You see, it all started when I made a Winter mix of my own free will and put it up on 8tracks… about 2 days before Adam asked me if I’d like to participate in this ‘Winter Mixes’ idea (naturally, as a fan of Adam’s blog and a fan of any excuse to share a mix tape, I was interested in participating). So, just like that, I was suddenly faced with the “it’s only painful if you are a bit of mix tape nerd” predicament of:
Luckily for me and my dilemma, I do a thing called THE MIX TAPE RADIO SHOW which requires me to get my finger out and try to make a new mix tape every couple weeks. So, after a night spent both tossing and turning, I took the two very real-to-me problems listed above and combined them into one glorious (and obvious) solution: I would use my original 8tracks Winter mix as a starting point for making a brand new winter themed episode of THE MIX TAPE RADIO SHOW, which I would then send to Adam as my final FINAL Winter mix. Problem solved! Everybody (in my head) wins.
OK. So besides streaming the final FINAL Winter mix on Mixcloud, you can also download it for free over on the iTunes AND… if you’d also like to listen to a different version of my attempt at a Winter mix (i.e. the original version, before I started over thinking EVERYTHING), you can pop over to 8tracks and do just that. 2 birds, multiple stones.
And now, if these introductory ramblings about a Winter mix tape have not put you off reading further ramblings about a Winter mix tape, scroll downwards for continued rambling…
Usually when you make a mix tape, it is best to keep all the secret messages and feelings and thoughts that you are trying to convey to the listener just that: secret, mysterious, and easily deniable if they call you on something that was meant to be subtly implied but never said out loud. This is why you would scribble “A Mix CD For <Insert Secret Crushes Name Here> – 2006” on a CD-R rather than writing “I Secretly Fancy You & I Hope You Might Fancy Me Back After Listening To This Mix CD – 2006”. Keep it mysterious, player.
Besides, if it is possible (and with digital mixes, it is usually possible), it’s much better to try and use the cover art to subliminally get across the deeper meaning of your mix. Don’t spell things out in the title; leave the interpretation of the mix up to the listener.
So before I posted the original mix to 8tracks, I spent a little time messing about in Photoshop until I came out with a cover that I thought vaguely conveyed what the unimaginatively named ‘Winter | 2015’ might really be about…
And since the final FINAL iteration of my adventure in Winter mix making ended up becoming the 65th episode of THE MIX TAPE RADIO SHOW, the final FINAL title took the previous unimaginative 8tracks title and raised it to the even higher level of un-imagination with ‘MIX TAPE RADIO – EPISODE 065 (THE ‘WINTER’ EPISODE)’, which also includes cover art that is just a combination of the original 8tracks cover and the usual MIX TAPE RADIO SHOW cover format I use for each episode.
WHY’D YOU PICK THESE SONGS? (OR BETTER PUT: WHAT’S THE STORY YOU’RE TRYING TO TELL WITH THESE TUNES?)
I make a lot of mix tapes, but it’s been quite awhile since I put together a themed one. So rather than assembling a mix with the music I’ve been listening to lately, I went through my entire iTunes library to come up with a playlist of ‘wintery’ songs to start the assembly from. Besides looking for obvious ‘wintery’ songs (you know, songs that say things like ‘winter’ or ‘cold’ or ‘snow’ in the title), I also kept my eyes open for the less obvious ones (like ‘Waking Up Drunk To Carl Sagan On Youtube’… which is something that feels like I’d be more likely to do in winter) and I also kept my ears open for the less obvious ones (like Yellow Ostrich’s ‘Slow Paddle’, which does not look like a winter song, but it does sound like one, especially with lines like “I know you’re comfortable where you are / I know the hallway’s a bit too far”). During this process of finding possible songs to use, a vibe for this mix began to reveal itself and I tried to follow it where it went.
Both mixes start off with the “Don’t Wanna Leave The Bed / House” feels that a cold-and-dark-more-than-it-is-light-outside winter often creates (especially if you spent the last 4 of them in England). Both mixes have a “waking up to the first snow” moment (provided by Adelyn Rose). Both mixes go from a song called ‘Lonely Swedish Girl’ in to different versions of a pretty literal follow up song (the original 8tracks mix goes in to ‘Cold Swedish Winter’ and the final FINAL Mixcloud mix goes into a Lykke Li song where, one could infer, she is playing the part of a lonely Swedish girl). I won’t break down the entire mix (keep it mysterious, player) but there is definitely an intention behind every choice; each track is influenced by what came before and influences what follows. But also, and equally important, both mixes are enjoyable to listen to on just a quality of songs level. Or at least that is always the hope.
WHY’D YOU PUT THESE TUNES IN THIS SPECIFIC ORDER?
For me, song order / flow is more important than song selection*. Or, rather, my song selection is completely influenced by song order / flow; it’s only if a song “fits the mix” that decides if it is selected. Once a mix sets foot down a certain path, every next step needs to “feel right”. Whether or not something “feels right” is determined by an impossible to explain set of always changing factors, so I won’t even try to explain it. I’ve probably said too much already.
* of course, this thinking only applies to the making of the more traditional notion of ‘mix tapes / mixes’ and not the more modern notion of ‘playlists’ (as playlists are often listened to on shuffle, so its best not to stress yourself too much about nailing down a perfect order, as most people won’t listen in that order, so better to focus instead on a bunch of great songs that work well together, no matter the order they’re listened in)
HOW’D YOU DECIDE THIS MIX WAS ‘FINISHED’? HOW MANY ITERATIONS OF IT DID YOU GO THROUGH BEFORE YOU WERE SATISFIED?
When making a mix, you always hope to get to the point where you can shout “that’s it! it’s perfect! don’t touch it anymore you fool, you’ll only ruin it!”. You’ll know you’re at that point when it feels impossible to think of another song that you could add or take away or even move a fraction of an audio inch from where it currently sits, because doing so would completely f up the beautiful music collage you’ve just created. And you don’t want to f things up. Not when everything is in its exact right place. Because that is a very hard point to get to.
Usually, it is more likely that you just get to a point where you got things pretty damn good, but there are a few transitions you wish were more perfect, and maybe there is a song or two that you can tell is probably not the perfect song for that moment and this mix but try as you might (and try you did) you just can’t quite figure out which song would be a better fit and besides… you really can’t spend anymore time on the mix because you’ve already spent more than you should and you really can’t stand to listen to these songs, in this memorised order, anymore so you just gotta stop because who is going to notice anyways and more importantly there is a new episode of Fargo to watch.
As for me and this Winter mix, well, I’ve listened to many slightly different versions of almost the same thing and have thrown many figurative crumpled up pieces of paper into the waste bin. But, I am also all caught up on the excellent second season of Fargo. And you know what? I can still listen to both mixes without wanting to scratch out my ear drums. And… sorry, what was the question again?
FAVORITE SONG ON THE MIX? ANY PARTICULAR REASON WHY?
On the 8tracks mix, one of my favourite tracks (and probably one of my all-time favourite ‘wintery’ tracks) is Doug Hoyer’s ‘Snow Bank’. Besides it just being a great song, I once passed out drunk in a snow bank as a teenager (it was actually the first time I ever got drunk), so lyrically, that song really connects. Since I’ve used ‘Snow Bank’ in a previous episode of THE MIX TAPE RADIO SHOW, I did not include it in the final FINAL mix… so I guess my other favourite song would probably be Julie Arsenault’s ‘Mr. Golden Sun’, which is a lovely little ditty that you only realise is a great winter song after you start working on a winter mix tape and your brain starts looking for possible winter connections in everything you listen to (it is also included in both mixes).
ANY SONG YOU HAD TO CUT/DIDN’T PUT ON IT THAT YOU WERE HOPING TO INCLUDE? WHY DIDN’T IT MAKE IT?
When putting together the final FINAL version, there were a few songs from the original 8tracks version that I had to remove from consideration as I had already included those tracks on previous episodes of THE MIX TAPE RADIO SHOW (my only rule with that show is that I can never use a song on more than one episode… and 65 episodes in means quite a few songs are no longer on the market). Other than the songs that fell into the ‘Already Used Before Category’, I didn’t really have any tracks that I was dead set on using but had to get rid of. I guess this is probably because my goal was to try and make a good winter mix and not “I really want people to hear this one track, so I’m gonna try my best to make that happen”. If that were the case, I’d probably put this song on every mix tape I make.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SAY ABOUT THE MIX OR YOUR PROCESS FOR CREATING IT?
Two more things…
Firstly, contrary to what the writing above implies, I am not a crazy person that lives entirely in my own head. I swear. I just really like a good mix tape and have always wanted to one day make a perfect one. And since I heard that practice makes perfect, I’ve been practicing a lot over the years. Probably too much.
Lastly, the kind of person who likes making mix tapes tends to be the kind of person that thinks a bunch of other peoples songs arranged in a perfect order is a much more effective (and preferable) way to communicate some thing than just using their own boring words. So it’s probably best to ignore everything I’ve said above and just put your headphones on and press play 🙂