Monthly Archives: May 2012

Perfecting the mixed tape

Summer is a great time for playlists, soundtracks, mixed tapes or mixtapes…whichever name you prefer. But a quality mix does not just happen by accident; you can’t just haphazardly throw together tracks you like. Making a good mixed tape is an art, so don’t waste your CDs on some random assortment of songs, no matter how good the songs may be. If you want to give a friend random songs, use Dropbox—it’s much more convenient and has less chance of you wasting precious CD space with songs they already have. But If you want to share a mixed tape with them, read on.

First, consider your audience. Who is this playlist for and why are you making it for them? Are you pulling together songs to help cheer up a friend who has gone through some hard times lately, or are you choosing tracks to pump up your teammates at practice? Maybe you want to make a best friend or special someone feel extra appreciated through song. Whatever the reason, keep this purpose in mind as you choose songs. You want your mixed tape to have a flow or to tell a story.

Next, pick the songs! Go through your iTunes library and pull out any songs that could work and put them in a playlist. You have to start somewhere, so start broad and then narrow down your song choice from there. Listen to the songs as you make your decision, and remove the songs that definitely won’t work. When you have narrowed down this list some, you’re ready for the next step in the mixed tape: establishing song order.

Pay attention to song order. While all of the songs you have chosen may convey whatever feeling you were going for, not all songs will flow together as well. Some songs may clash if they’re played consecutively but will still work wonderfully on the same album as long as you have the proper songs between them. Try to group similar sounds, tempos and lyrics together first, and then work to place these different sounds in a cohesive order. Think of how the sounds can work together to tell a story, moving from happy to sad to happy again, or from slow tempoed to more fast-paced songs. You have enough sense about music to pick these songs, so you should be able to tell which songs don’t go very well together (and therefore avoid putting those together).

Choose your songs again. Sometimes you have to let songs go at this stage. Maybe two songs have too similar feelings and you need to cut one, or maybe you just can’t place the song in the current lineup you created. In either case, it may be a good idea to take a break from the project and come back to it later—take a few hours or even days to step back and then give it another listen. You may also find you are lacking a song or two that you hadn’t pulled out from your initial iTunes browsing. Putting a little more thought into your mix will allow for a more meaningful end result.

More hints:

  • Be sure to give the playlist a final listen before pulling out that CD to burn. You don’t want to waste any CD-Rs because the playlist wasn’t exactly how you wanted it. When you’re finished, test out the burned disc for playback as well.
  • With that in mind, also check the playlist running time. If you’re making a mixed tape, be sure that the total length of your playlist is shorter than what one CD will hold. If you’re wanting to use multiple CDs, then it doesn’t matter as much, but still keep length in mind.
  • Don’t forget to name your creation, but be careful what you choose. “The Awesome List” might be a little pretentious, while some really long title filled with inside jokes may only work in some situations. Or maybe you should just go with “My mix.” It’s up to you, really.
  • Decorate the case/CD before you give it to them. Writing up a track list would also be a nice touch.
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Friday Favorites: A Lesson in Romantics

This week’s Friday Favorites is a little different. Instead of focusing on a band, I’m going even more specific: a favorite album—Mayday Parade‘s A Lesson in Romantics.

A Lesson in Romantics is a masterpiece. Let me break it down for you.


This album takes you through the whole range of emotions a relationship can bring, and it articulates these feelings so honestly. It’s like catharsis and indulgence and hope all rolled into 47 minutes of hard-hitting alt rock. Part of Mayday Parade’s style that I’ve especially appreciated, besides all the passion and emotions, is how the lyrics often reference singing or songwriting, but not in a cheesy, SexyBack sort of way. The songs are also well-done, in that the music and the lyrics are both written and performed well. It’s top-notch stuff.

The album itself has a sort of flow or narrative in the song order. The dreamy focus of the opening track, “Jamie All Over,” sets you up for the angry heartbreak of the next couple of tracks (“Black Cat” and “When I Get Home, You’re So Dead”). It’s not until “Jersey” that Derek Sanders and company let on just how much vulnerability there is behind the anger, but there’s no holding back by the time you hit “Miserable at Best” two tracks later.

But before every thought and tear is laid bare to a girl named Katie, the past is dealt with in “If You Wanted a Song Written About You, All You Had to Do Is Ask.” He’s burning letters and turning over pictures and addressing hurt and anger in a less attacking manner than the previous songs, and by the time “Miserable at Best” begins, you’re rooting for the guy. Which is a good place to be, considering the next song covers moving forward, conveniently titled “Walk on Water or Drown.”

All of this builds into “I’d Hate to Be You When People Find Out What This Song Is About,” which is a song about, well,  how difficult things can be, among other topics such as being “tongue-tied and terrified.”

Even so, “Take This To Heart” is probably my favorite song on the album (with “If You Wanted A Song…” as a close second). It’s full of uncertainty and hope and longing, and I love it. It also sets things up nicely for “Champagne’s for Celebrating (I’ll Have A Martini)” and all its “what ifs” and regret.

While I really enjoy “You Be the Anchor That Keeps My Feet on the Ground, I’ll Be the Wings That Keep Your Heart in the Clouds,” I had not seen the full title for months after listening to this album because it would not fit on my iPhone display. That’s the only complaint I have about the album, really—it took me awhile to learn all of the song titles.

Of course, I like the sometimes vague and probably unnecessarily lengthy song titles in their own merit because, to me at least, it feels like a throwback to one of my favorite albums in high school. That’s right, Panic! At the Disco’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat OutBut that’s another article for another time (Perhaps a time to dance? Fine, I’ll stop with the not-so-clever jokes).

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Music Video Feature: Coldplay’s The Scientist

It was 2008. I was on vacation, and there was this really cool jukebox of sorts that played music videos. I watched a lot of music videos that week, but this was the one that stuck with me the most. It’s this week’s Music Video Feature!

Coldplay — The Scientist

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Friday Favorites: the Hush Sound

The Hush Sound no longer exists. The videos below are five years old. And yet, I still love this band from Chicago. I listen to them all the time. I made a ringtone years ago, which I still use. Their excellence lasts beyond their current hiatus.

But what is it about this indie quartet that keeps me coming back for more? Is it this awesome exercise in typography?


(Answer: yes, but that’s not all).

What makes the Hush Sound one of my top five favorite bands is a combination of a few things. First, the vocals. The male and female lead vocals (Bob Morris and Greta Salpeter) combine to something near magical, a sweet balance of delicateness and strength. The band simply wouldn’t have the same effect with only one voice.

And what an effect they have. The almost classical piano combines with the electric guitar, bass and drums for a sound and feeling very unique to the music industry. I love all three of their albums: So Sudden, Like Vines, and Goodbye Blues (especially the Deluxe version) in their own ways, but Goodbye Blues has always stuck out for a reason beyond simply being awesome. It has a classy feel to it, reminiscent of The Great Gatsby. The album tells an intricate story with its moving lyrics and distinct style, a sort of beautiful train wreck of love.

Spotify doesn’t have the normal version of “Wine Red,” one of their more popular songs, but listen to it below or check it out on iTunes or the actual CD (I bought my copy for only a few dollars on Amazon.) Many of their other wonderful songs can be heard here: BoumBox’s Hush Sound sampler

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Love Warmed Over

Last year, I co-wrote a romance novel about a quarterback, his sexy football coach, and the beautiful young cafeteria lady. Ok, the story isn’t finished, but we did manage to talk our friend Alex Heath into reading part of it for an audio project. Here is the outcome:

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“Friday” Favorites: 4 great things about The Killers

Of my top five favorite bands, I’ve seen three in concert: Relient K, Jack’s Mannequin, and the Killers. The Killers’ show was certainly the most, er, extravagant of the three, namely because Relient K was not the headlining band and Jack’s Mannequin was limited by the small space at Headliners. Whatever the reason, I’m starting with why The Killers have been one of my favorites since I got their first album, Hot Fuss, for Christmas several years ago. Here we go:

Stage from the Killers' concert in 2009

I saw the Killers in Indiana in 2009. Not only did “All These Things That I’ve Done” have awesome effects, it was the encore, and it was beautiful.

1. Their albums’ listenability
Hot Fuss, Sam’s Town, Sawdust, and Day & Age are all the kind of albums you can listen to all the way through. Because each album is full of good songs—not all of them will become instant favorites, but they definitely grow on you—the albums are great for driving because of their generally upbeat tempo and how well the songs flow together.

2. Intro to alt. rock
For me, the Killers mark the beginning of something new: my own musical journey. My dad made sure that I was exposed to a variety of musical genres from an early age, so I was exposed to many different bands and sounds. My introduction to the Killers was  during one of my many “musical education” moments listening to the radio with my dad, but it didn’t stop there. They mark one of the first bands I began to explore on my own; I asked for the album having listened to only two songs previously but knowing desperately that I wanted to hear more. They were a great place to start developing my own musical tastes.

3. “Romeo and Juliet”
Because of my aforementioned musical education, I was familiar with Dire Straits far before the Killers, and I had always enjoyed their song “Romeo and Juliet.” When I found out much later that the Killers recorded a cover, I was skeptical, but they actually did a very good job with it. While it’s on their album Sawdust, I’m told the song is not available in the U.S. on Spotify, but give it a listen on YouTube anyway.

4. Really, ridiculously good songs
Call me biased, but the Killers’ good songs are really good songs.  Top quality. They’re good stuff! Fine, listen for yourself. Here are some of my favorite songs by the Killers. (“All These Things That I’ve Done” is one of my favorite songs, period.)

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Friday favorites

There are a great many number of bands that I love—some classic, some recent, all wonderful in their own ways. In honor of these talented artists (I had to try so hard not to make a play on “unsung heroes”), I will be featuring a favorite band each week.

Because I’m a fan of alliteration, I’ll try to post on Fridays, although this week’s feature may not be until later this weekend. Stay tuned!

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