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The Pack

The Pack

This is Sound MIXTAPES


By: James Cassar
On Deck This Week: The Homecoming Mixtape (!!!)

            There’s an episode of the once-popular sitcom Everybody Hates Chris where the shady Uncle Ryan cons the titular kid’s father into the illegal soliciting of an ‘audio revolution.’ Mixtapes, as they were named, were the easiest way to cut a person’s favorite medley of songs on a cassette tape – a personal vendetta against the music industry and their prepackaged, cellophane-wrapped compact discs. Anti-establishment motives aside, the hip-hop universe has embraced this concept, mixtapes being a sucka MC’s introduction into the widely popular world of bustin’ rhymes. On the other side of the spectrum, you have the hipsters, holed up in their Tumblr blogs, humming to some Bon Iver record, silently remembering lines from The Catcher in the Rye. Sure, that’s a stereotype straight out of what I see at Urban Outfitters, but yeah, mixtapes can contain already-released music on everything from nostalgic tapes to digital downloads.
When I was in the eighth grade, my friends didn’t exactly hang out with me as much as they used to. Nights spent blaring Linkin Park (let the flames begin) and roaring through yet another circuit in Project Gotham Racing were replaced with sparse blistering battles in Guitar Hero II and eating too much Nutella –alone. Save the ‘forever alone’ face for someone who actually needs digitized sympathy, but I found solace in a stack of Kirkland-brand CD-R’s and a jet-black Sharpie. I was Dexter, not the eponymous serial killer; I was that ginger nerd from my youth. Dee-Dee, get out of my laboratory! I was bent on mixology.
After burning this lass Rachel Angels & Airwaves’ I-Empire, I made her a mix, sheepishly untitled (catchy titles came later) and sparsely scrawled on in permanent marker, Death Cab for Cutie, the main vehicle that trudged the tracklist along. I experimented with sounds – what song fit there and when, quiet-loud dynamics straight out of The Pixies’ playbook, and that’s when I created my own stamp on the sticky stationery of playlist genesis: The Last Track Mantra.
Like every kid riddled with excessive self-consciousness, a wild mop of hair and a pocket full of dreams, I found myself fawning over girls like Bambi (think about that one) and attempting to win their hearts just like I five-starred songs on medium Guitar Hero – trying to score points until the screen loudly broadcasted ‘You Rock!’ Fools rushed in to my life claiming that they’d made out with chicks while having the allure of a doorknob, but I wasn’t listening. I was plugged into the Matrix, keen on taking that pill and totally leaving my turbulent thirteen-year-old Michigan behind for a magical mystery tour in mixtape making. And so I created my different spin on the idea: leave your statement for the very end. Create a playlist that mirrors their personal tastes, while exposing them to artists similar or totally contrasting to their favorites. Challenge their earbuds. Force a smile to be pasted on their face. And then, BAM! Your statement catches them completely off-guard and they dive headfirst into love with you without a fight. Totally foolproof.
This continued throughout high school, poring over a computer screen and getting a whitewashed tan from its ghoulish glow. I started taking requests, just hearing one of my clients’ favorite songs as a springboard. This service was free, until my clever conniving private school administration found out – and shut me down.
Like the Star Wars trilogy painfully revitalized itself in three lackluster prequels, I entered Leesburg with a brand new 100-count stack of bright-blue recordables and a plethora of Sharpies. I wasn’t taking orders like a greasy Five Guys joint, I was that kid that noticed people – a wallflower, if you will – who until about October 2010 blended into my surroundings and found out their music tastes by what I do best, listening. After I met my best friend, Gabriella Caulfield, CDs traded back and forth, and the infernal machine started up again, serving as a side quest through my angst-wielding days of traversing the foreign terrain. I was taking over the world, 70 minutes at a time.
And so I extend my knowledge to you, lucky reader, during the hormonal Homecoming shenanigans. My advice is not like a corsage. It’s free, and unlike your date, I will not make your night awkward by rolling my eyes and laughing at your gawkiness. I’m here to help. This is Sound MIXTAPES: your one-way ticket to scoring a chick. Well, not necessarily. But like flu season, it’s worth a shot.
It might be a sign of the apocalypse to say that I’m actually attending my first dance with a girl. Granted, I’ve tried harder than most and my uncanny good looks and physique amount to something, right? And so come Saturday, not only will I be internally exploding from this sudden flooding of happiness, but I’ll have the mix, properly titled The Homecoming Mixtape (!!!). Three exclamation points of swag. Just kidding. Swag is too mainstream.
How to Date Friends and Romanticize People: A Mixtape By the Devilishly Handsome James Cassar Who Has Granted You the Ability to See His Unconventionally Amazing Thought Process. Happy Early Birthday.
Nirvana: “About a Girl (LP Version)”
Kurt Cobain: gotta love him. The sale of flannel t-shirts and Converse All-Star hightops written on haphazardly with Sharpie marker skyrocketed magically after his death (fun fact: Amy Winehouse died at the same age) – so basically, he created hipsters. This song is anything but hip – it’s not written by pretentious indie bands after all. No, it’s penned by the most singularly societal misfit on the other side of the U.S. The plus side? He’s not unintelligibly slurring lyrics like an inebriated Neil Young and it’s actually a pretty low-key romance jam. It’s got this ‘no-worries’ vibe that ironically contrasted everything on the contents of that CD with the naked baby – 1991’s Nevermind.
Yellowcard: “October Nights”
Earnest punk-pop medleys with an electric violin: even though my senior T-shirt broadcasts my inherent “$ENIOR $WAG,” I won’t use that term to describe this track. Instead, let’s use an anecdote from my youth. I was like nine or something. My sonic savior sister (triple alliteration score, no big deal) Kristi had a burned copy of Yellowcard’s One for the Kids and Ocean Avenue smacked onto the same CD like Frogger was smacked onto some 4-bit road by a blocky Atari pedestrian. Having inherited pretty much every CD from her since I was too young to distinguish pitch from timbre, I was sure to snag a copy of this fine double-record. Of course, that wasn’t the case, and so I found myself sneaking into her ginormous room, plucking the disc off her dresser, and plopping into my trusty Phillips stereo, dancing to it in my whitey-tighties. And although that was about six billion years ago, this song, heavy on the violin and guitar battling, is game for a jig every now and then. Take your date and jam to this like a cool kid couple. You’ll get brownie points from me, and like Ahi tuna, that is rare, man.
Motion City Soundtrack: “Everything Is Alright”
When I was twelve, I had this best friend (I guess we’ll call him that, I was more or less a human dictionary to my buddies anyway) who was badder than Michael Jackson. We snuck into the movie Accepted because he just radiated cinema crasher (think American Pie minus everything redeemable about it) and had a few laughs. Despite this being background music for the trailer, it wasn’t present in the movie. Nevertheless, this was my MySpace profile song for about three months (99 friends and counting, guys!!!!!!) and for good reason: with a sunny guest vocal from Fall Out Boy‘s mutton-chop belter Patrick Stump, it’s hard to underappreciate this synth-rock gem as you’re listening to this mixtape with your date that isn’t as pretty as this mix. OOOOOH, BURN!
All Time Low: “Weightless”
Sympathy dates: they happen. While I’m never been on one because I have more charm than your celebrity crush and your current boyfriend, I’ve heard the horror stories: apathetic conversation, the incessant need to check empty message inboxes, burping to smell gross, I don’t know. The point is, even though this quartet has long lost their shine, they did write a golden line (and dang, that rhyme was fine), “Maybe it’s not my weekend, but it’s gonna be my year.” Take your dastardly diva to the prom. She’s not like Lady Gaga, she won’t be coming back to haunt you in an egg suit or you know, keep making music. Take a hint from that one rap-rock song that nobody actually remembers and party like a rockstar.
blink-182: ”First Date” (on a side note: I heard some kid say he was a fan of “blink-193” and I almost choked on my milk in bewilderment. Is that kid for real?)
On the other side of the pancake, there are the really good dates. Your deodorant actually does its job, you don’t look like a geeked-out horse when you smile, and both of you have a good time and actually remain on great terms afterwards. This is the anthem for that, and I’m not just saying that because this band has been like, a trio of extremely-rich friends for me since I was donning Old Navy Performance Fleece. Blow your speakers with this one, I guarantee if you’re not five years old, you’ll go, “Oh! That song! Thanks, James! How can I ever thank you?”
Attack Attack!: “Interlude”
Granted, this album probably would make all y’all’s ears bleed. It’s cookie-cutter screamo, but Austin Carlile and friends decided to shake up the stereotype and infuse rave-roaring techno into their otherwise complacent 2000s metal like a second-tier Bring Me the Horizon. This is one of their glowstick-wielding jams (something they actually played at my sophomore homecoming). There’s actually a dance to this, viewable here. Get your dance crew to do this and I’ll give you a Klondike bar. The kiddies love Klondike bars.
This is where the mix slows down, because of course, every dance slows down sometime, right?
Foo Fighters: “Everlong”
I think everyone and their mother knows who Nirvana is (track one), but did you know that the drummer that has hair like Severus Snape, Dave Grohl, is the rockin’ vocalist of the Foos? Probably not. With one of the most erratic drum parts in recent memory (coming from a drummer, that’s saying something, yo) and lyrics that would make your date’s mushy heart melt, this song is romance gold. Sing this to your date, and well, you’ve got yourself a one-way ticket to the altar. Totally serious.
Man Overboard: “Love Your Friends, Die Laughing”
This is the greatest song to ever live. Yes, live, songs are living things, I say! And before I drop the banhammer on you for laughing at my ridiculousness, hear me out: this acoustic ditty is perfect. It’s really short, but so is your time actually being the king of the dancefloor. I always imagine this song sung campfire-style while roasting some killer ‘mallows. Now, remember, if it’s raining and you seek refuge somewhere with a CD drive, put this little number in. It complements the rain like that corsage you dropped bank on goes well with your date’s outfit.
Smashing Pumpkins: “Tonight, Tonight”
Long before Hot Chelle Rae released an (admittedly) catchy song of the same name, post-grunge pioneers The Smashing Pumpkins released a concept album known as Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Morose album title aside, it’s a pretty vivacious offering from the band – considering several of their songs carry dark undertones. This one might, I don’t really care, though, because it’s got that post-dance chill factor that serves as a prelude to whatever afterparty you go to and all that Rockstar you’ll probably consume. Yeah, Rockstar.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: “Zero”
So yeah, the afterparty: whether it’s you partying like it’s 1999 with a Prince-less DJ and your closest pals or you’re dropping your date off and then mauling down the digital cavalry in Call of Duty, it’s your craze that feeds off your high or low that you garnered chilling with your friends. Granted this isn’t a dubstep track (Skrillex looks like a girl, to be honest) or the hottest Top 40 ‘party rock anthem’ (to which I say it’s a track that makes every day ‘I’m shufflin’ day), but it’s an upbeat prog-dance track, especially the synthy-drum jive bridge. Check it out.
A Day to Remember: “Have Faith in Me”
You know, I was reluctant to close out this playlist with a song that doesn’t really make a bona fide statement like “That was fun. Go out with me?” or “Your breath smells.” Mixtapes don’t usually have to. I’d create a list for someone and just totally run with it, not caring what they took away from it, because music is music, and listeners tend to make their own connections. ADTR is one of my favorite bands, and has been for a long time. Actually, that’s a mutual interest that got Gabby and I talking. Here’s the thing about this cut; it’s got a proverbial recurring line: “I said I’d never let you go, and I never did.” Sure, your date may either be your squeeze, your crush, your best friend, or your whatever. But, there had to be a reason you’re dressed up for each other. No matter what kind of time you both have, you’re guaranteed to remember it forever, not for the person you’re paired with, but for the experience. I guess that’s why this is track ten. This homecoming is one you’ll have faith in, no matter what kind of time you end up having.

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