Music News

Mixed Up

Perhaps I'm an anomaly ("perhaps," my ass), but I've recently concluded that making romantic-minded mix tapes and CDs is always an uncomfortable, if not completely humiliating, experience.

Case in point: Some time ago I was riding in a close female friend's car, when I noticed that her tape deck was spitting out a collection of tunes that I own, some only available on limited-release vinyl seven-inches. I popped out the tape, and sure enough, in my own handwriting, was the caption "Love Songs." My friend had inherited a cast-off mix tape from a messy breakup I'd had with one of her best friends.

The tape took a flight right out the car window.

So did my will to mix. It had been some time since I'd dabbled in the juvenile art of romancing via playlist -- since a failed engagement a couple of years ago -- until recently, when I met an angel of a girl, a veritable siren, whom I wanted to counter-attract with songs of my own. It ended up being three full CDs of songs, actually (yeah, she's that dope).

It didn't seem like a bad idea at the time. She'd complimented me on my Cursive tee shirt the first time we met, so I knew our tastes converged somewhere. But in retrospect, I realize that I probably exposed what a misanthropic miscreant I actually am.

To make things worse, now I'll expose it to you, too.

My recent adventure in comp-making as foreplay started off well enough. I'd like to think I'm a romantic at heart, so naturally I threw on some nice, poppy, sweet emo tracks that girls are sure to swoon over -- Death Cab for Cutie, the Gloria Record, Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes. You know, panty-droppers. (Okay, so I'm not that romantic.)

In theory, the ideal suitor's mix CD ought to exhibit some singular originality. You don't go throwing Radiohead's "Creep" around just because it's a great song; she probably has that shit already. The Internet and the magic of file sharing have made that infinitely easier than it once was, enabling me to drop unreleased tracks like Bright Eyes' "First Day of My Life" and the Postal Service's awesome cover of Phil Collins' "Against All Odds."

Easier for me -- and for everyone else, I sadly report. I saw an online chat recently with the First Twins, Barb and Jenna, where they claimed to be fans of Modest Mouse, the Postal Service, and the Strokes, two-thirds of whom appeared on the first CD I made. So I wasn't being especially unique.

But maybe unique is not so good, in Cupid's eyes. At some point in the creative process, my true cynical stripes began to show. I threw the Good Life's "The Beaten Path" on there, a beautiful song, but with inklings of my true nature: Tim Kasher sings, "The days were laid out like pavement/Work and drink and sleep; repeat," and later, "If you love it, you leave it/'Cause you hate that you need it."

Things didn't improve when I moved on to volumes two and three, one full of rawk songs, and the other hip-hop.

I blame the heavy, pummeling rock disc on a burst of masculinity, a subliminal need to counteract the pussy emo shit on the first CD. But really, is there one pretty girl out there who actually likes the Dillinger Escape Plan or is prone to dig a song called "Baby's First Coffin"? Doubtful. Not to mention that the hard rock lends itself to especially bitter songs, like "The Lament of Pretty Baby" and "The Game of Who Needs Who the Worst," off Cursive's epic divorce-themed album Domestica.

When I was finished, the rock CD was absolutely brutal. I'd be lucky if she listened to it for five minutes without drawing blood from her delicate ears. I still thought she should have it -- because I'm a stereo fascist who thinks my tastes superior to others -- but I decided if I was gonna bring the rock, I'd better balance it out with some beats on the third CD.

Unfortunately, this one only cemented any impression of emotional immaturity, kicking off with Atmosphere's "Trying to Find a Balance," where Slug not only raps, "They will respect the cock, whether or not they believe in it," but also, "Hello ma'am, would you be interested in some sexual positions and emotional investments?"

Buck 65, my favorite white Canadian rapper, didn't help me out much, either. I threw on the self-depreciative track "Tired Out," where Buck relives the guilt over cheating on a girlfriend. But worse than that, in a fit of humor, I threw on "The Centaur," where Buck raps, "The easiest way would be for you to lie face down/I'm a man, but I'm built like a horse from the waist down," and, "I have plenty to say, but nobody listens/Because my cock is so big, and the end of it glistens."

So I'm not much of a Lothario, though I certainly try my damnedest. She said she liked the CDs, but we didn't get into specifics and I didn't press her for an evaluation, being somewhat embarrassed by my selections after the fact. Mixer's remorse.

I don't know if the mix CDs were responsible, but I didn't get the girl. I still wonder, does the collection of songs I gave her paint an accurate picture of this would-be Casanova? Probably. There's certainly such a thing as overexposure, and I'd bathed myself in floodlights. So from this point on, I'm retiring from the humiliating art of wooing girls with music. Lesson learned.

I'm just wondering if a couple years from now I'll be riding in a friend's car and hear the Postal Service doing "Against All Odds." Chances are good, I fear.

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Brendan Joel Kelley