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le cd swap: do the shuffle

June 3, 2010

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a High Fidelity-esque music geek. I mean, I probably could have done my 52 lists on music alone: best lyrics, best opening lines, top 10 album covers (illustrated and photographed), top 5 songs about summer, music for a slow Sunday morning, music saved for a rainy day, guilty pleasures, tracks for a road trip. The options are endless, really. My life often feels like one big soundtrack, with songs for every mood, emotion, situation, occasion. Music intensifies everything. And I know I need to make room for more silence in my life but hell’s bells, with new albums coming out every day, who has time for silence? I reserve silence for when I sleep (and that’s only if my punk ass neighbors aren’t playing shoot ’em up video games until 2am).

So it stands to reason that I am a big fan of the mix tape. Do you remember those days? Before iTunes and Blip and 8tracks and Last FM or, for that matter, the compact disc? Remember the days of the mix tape? It used to be that mixing a tape for someone was quite the investment in time and energy. Nothing said “I care”  more than a mix tape. Not chocolate, not flowers, no way, no how. A letter, perhaps. But there was always the risk of coming off cheesy. A mix tape, however, was a sure way to express something you couldn’t quite find the words for in 60 minutes flat. I miss you. I love you. I need you. I hate you.

As John Cusack so eloquently said in High Fidelity (one of my all time top 5 movies), a mix tape is a work of art.

To me, making a tape is like writing a letter – there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with “Got to Get You Off My Mind”, but then realized that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can’t have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can’t have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you’ve done the whole thing in pairs and…oh, there are loads of rules.” -from Nick Hornsby’s, High Fidelity

I am lucky to be surrounded by friends that still practice this long lost art on a regular basis (on CD, mind you) and it’s not uncommon for me to receive a spring mix, a summer mashup or a winter blend. A birthday mix is pretty standard and it may seem like the most basic of gifts but damn if it don’t make this girl grin from ear to ear. I look at the track listing and simply can’t wait to pop that sucker in a drive and take it for a spin.

But I can’t help but wonder… are the days of the mix tape/cd dead?

So I was thinking, you know, maybe, if you want, perhaps we could do a cd swap? Could be fun, non? However, I am putting a twist on it.  For the sake of saving time (because who has time these days) and energy (you save that energy for mixing summer drinks yo!), I suggest we just Do The Shuffle!**

The concept is simple really and all you need is a CD.

Put your media player, iTunes, iPod, what have you, on shuffle. You can either shuffle your entire music collection or just the recently added (to share your newest music) or your most valuable players (to share some of your favorites).

The point, contrary to the rigid rules of mixing, is to NOT think. Just take the first 15 songs that play on shuffle, shake and stir, burn them on a cd and BOOM BOOM POW! You got yourself a mix. You send me one, I’ll send you one. It’s a swap after all. There is no theme. This mix is to be eclectic, like life.  It’s melancholy, joy, anger, nostalgia, regret, laughter, love, disappointment, breaking down, lifting up… all at once.  There is no perfect transition from one song to the next. Life isn’t always smooth. Also. The point is not to make a mix geared towards the recipient’s likes. This experiment is a way to introduce you to music you may not usually listen to or are not generally exposed to. Just don’t forget to include the track listing. A cd without a track listing is sacrilegious.

Still. Because I am not without mercy for the music you still have in your collection from the days of Ricky Martin (I feel a top 10 cheesiest performers of the 90’s coming on), I give you full permission to remove any embarrassing songs from your playlist, because you know shuffle is like a game of Russian roulette guaranteed to fall on one of your guilty pleasures. Not that there is anything wrong with Céline Dion as such (she is, after all, one of our icons over here in Québec), but, you know, music snobs might judge. I’m just sayin’. Also. I will refuse any cd with Toni Braxton’s Unbreak My Heart on it. I used to live above someone in University who played that song on repeat every day for 2 weeks strait and it now makes my ears bleed within the first couple riffs. Shudder.

Alors, if you feel like playing along (and I hope you do), leave a comment below before June 11 and I’ll be in touch via email for your mailing address.

Long live the mix tape!

** This is also inspired by the fact that I start each morning by putting my iPod on shuffle as I walk out the door, a sort of “Say Universe, what message you got for me today? This morning’s song was My Girls by Animal Collective, which either means that all I want is four walls and adobe slats, or maybe I want to play music underwater. It’s hard to say. The message isn’t clear with this one. The Universe is obviously on crack.  Try it. What’s the first song that comes on when you press shuffle?

34 Comments leave one →
  1. June 3, 2010 6:58 am

    Hm… Sounds interesting. I will be in touch – I think. 🙂

  2. June 3, 2010 8:47 am

    haha – great! i know what i gonna make you for your birthday now.


  3. June 3, 2010 9:51 am

    I’d love to play!

  4. June 3, 2010 10:41 am

    yep, i’m in i’m in i’m IN! love a swap, love tunage, love the surprise (and at times absolute HORROR of ‘shuffle’). let me know how to play and you’ve got yourself a san jose, ca mish mosh of sounds comin’ to your casa.


  5. June 3, 2010 11:01 am

    oh mix tape how do I love theee… very very well thank you… eh alors, je suis “in” awesome idea mlle. caron

  6. June 3, 2010 1:39 pm

    I’m in!

  7. Ashley Erin permalink
    June 3, 2010 4:13 pm

    I’m in! I love to discover new music!

  8. Adam Barnett permalink
    June 3, 2010 7:09 pm

    I’m in. Not so sure about the randomness though…I’m a purist through and through when it comes to the mixed tape.

    And yes, I remember the days like nothing else. I even remember winding the tape forward with my finger so it got past the blank “white” tape that you couldn’t record on in order to not have the beginning of the song cut off.

    And looking at the end of the side and judging how long you might have left by the size remaining on the spool. I wasn’t allowed to time it…had to go with the gut.

    And being surrounded by all my tapes, cuing them up, letting my instinct guide me along on the journey. I NEVER went back and recorded over a song. Once it was down, it was down.

    Mixed CDs are fun. But they aren’t the same.

    Anyway…would love to play.

    Love you,

  9. June 4, 2010 12:56 am

    OH. MY. GOD.

    Okay…so I’ve been reading your blog for a bit now and have you on my blogroll. I’ve been thinking of the eerie coincidences in our respective lives (Which sounds frickin’ stalker-y…but trust me on this, it’s not! (which also sounds like something a stalker would say))…but you are much more eloquent and honest than I at laying it all out there. Both of which are refreshing and partially envy-inducing! 🙂

    That said…I completely miss the mix tape and am totally in!!
    I actually create mixes on based around a theme as part of a fun challenge with a friend of mine.

  10. June 4, 2010 4:11 am

    I’m IN!

  11. Karen permalink
    June 4, 2010 9:06 am

    Send me an address and I will send you a mix!

  12. June 4, 2010 10:54 am

    Great article!!
    i love your photos!!! really good 🙂

  13. Josefina permalink
    June 4, 2010 12:35 pm

    Sounds like fun. I’m in! I feel sorry for you though, I have some awful music in my Itunes 🙂

  14. Kate permalink
    June 6, 2010 5:57 am

    I give songs to e v e r th i n g! My last 10 years have soundtracks made in their honour( or to kick them in the pants!), and would L O V E to swap! I’m so in!

  15. June 6, 2010 12:59 pm

    Ooh! I wanna play!

  16. gina permalink
    June 6, 2010 6:46 pm

    count me in!

  17. June 7, 2010 5:13 am

    I’m in! I’m in! I’m in! 🙂
    My first song of the day was a live-version of “It’s A Motherfucker” by Eels. Guess that means it’ll be a ? day. 😉
    (I’m an put-my-iPod-on-shuffle-in-the-morning-to-see-what-universe-has-in-store-for-me-addict too!!!)

  18. Emily permalink
    June 7, 2010 11:59 am

    I have been following your blog for a few months now and find it to be very inspiring and a delight to read! I would LOVE to be a part of this project of yours. Please let me know how to proceed, and keep up the great work!!

  19. Clare permalink
    June 7, 2010 7:35 pm

    What a great idea! I love your blog – I get seriously inspired whenever I read a new post, so thank you!!
    I’d love to swap some music, count me in!

  20. June 8, 2010 12:34 pm

    I am in! Can’t wait to get your mix. Now I gotta figure out how to burn a mix. Also, I loved your marathon list! Classic! Sounds like how I do it 🙂

  21. Frannie permalink
    June 9, 2010 5:49 am

    First song when I hit shuffle is “Blue Light” by Mazzy Star.

    I’d like to join the cd swap.

    By the way, I’m going to Chicago on June 24 for Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival on the 26th. I’m sooo excited!

  22. Britt Gullick permalink
    June 9, 2010 2:12 pm

    I am SO into this. Just lemme know where to send it! I am in the “mixed cd will never die” camp, and have to note that I just uncovered a Doc Martens shoebox of mixed tapes circa 1995 that was a goldmine… the “Fuckin’ Cool Mix” included some Neil Young, Van Morrison …. and… Boogie Shoes by KC and The Sunshine Band? Now there was a surprise.

  23. Michele permalink
    June 11, 2010 3:02 pm

    Oh, how fun! Am I too late? I would love to share some music with you. I hope I can still partake in this wonderful swap. *fingers crossed*


  24. June 13, 2010 11:54 am

    I totally want to send you a mixed CD!! What a great idea!! xo

  25. June 13, 2010 11:26 pm

    Am I too late to get in on this? I worked for a student run independent radio station and it was a rocking time. Music is so important. Let me know, I’d love to join this activity!

  26. June 14, 2010 8:37 am

    am I too late????? I missed this…I would so love to participate.

  27. June 14, 2010 8:56 am

    As said before: I am in!!!!

  28. June 25, 2010 11:13 am

    Is it too late for the cd swap.? I have one ready.


    • jeanine permalink
      June 25, 2010 2:41 pm

      not at all 🙂 send me your address and i’ll send a cd out your way

      my address is 5516 casgrain avenue montreal, qc h2t 1×2 CANADA

      thanks for playing along. happy weekend. jeanine

  29. June 25, 2010 1:46 pm

    i am totally, TOTALLY bummed that I miss this while abroad. drat. what a great idea!

  30. June 30, 2010 4:27 am

    As a fellow music nut I totally get your obsession – I have an album, a song, a lyric for EVERY moment of my life (and blog post!). Since childhood I’ve been a mix tape maker and throughout my life I’ve given loved ones awesome (even if I say so myself) personalised compilation albums. In fact only this weekend my girlfriend reminded me I was late with her mix tape – it’s become a tradition that I make her a quarterly compilation (one for each season) and it’s a fab way to reminisce, especially when we play, say, Spring ‘08 Mix and immediately we’re transported back to that time in our relationship. Love you blog – found it through following Leonie.

  31. June 30, 2010 4:33 am

    Also, re The iTunes Shuffle: my cousin and I have one rule in the iTunes Shuffle Club… Never, ever, ever skip a track! You know if you do it once you’ll be tempted to keep skipping forward to find *the* track you want to hear. And it’s so true! So, resist the temptation to fast forward a track even if a random cheesy Christmas track comes on (I’m thinking Wham’s Last Christmas – yes, that’s in my iTunes library!) in the middle of a baking hot day summer day 🙂 It’s tough, trust me.


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