For a certain generation, the mixtape was a friendship bracelet or a valentine. It was the gift you gave to a special friend or to a love interest, a token for anyone you wanted to impress with your musical taste or hip to the tunes currently rocking your world.
For those of us who made and obsessed over these compilations on cassette, and later compact disc, there were the standby tunes – the absolute favorites that traveled from tape to tape like a talisman. Then there were the recent finds, the latest songs that you couldn’t stop hitting “play” on over and over.
Now in the age of streaming services like Spotify, the mixtape as a physical object may be nearly lost. But the ease of making playlists gives them new life: as party mixes, road-trip tunes and mood setters for all kinds of occasions.
We asked 10 musical artists and curators in the Capital Region to make us their ultimate 10-song mixtapes. Some paired all-time favorites with new loves, while others stuck to a theme. All put their love for music, and their enjoyment for sharing musical pleasures, into the mix.
Host, The Local 518 Show
As a host on WEXT Radio, Andy Gregory could be counted on for a mixtape featuring all local musicians, which he says is like asking him “to pick my favorite kids from the wealth of talent here in the Capital District.” Look out for Gregory at the 2019 Tulip Fest on May 11 and 12, where WEXT hosts the Local 518 Stage at the Lakehouse. And tune into his show on Thursdays at 11:00 p.m., WEXT Radio 97.7 & 106.1 FM, for his selections of the best local music.
1. Bird Streets – “Betting on the Sun”
2. Candy Ambulance – “Spray”
3. CK & The Rising Tide – “Desire”
4. Girl Blue – “Lolita”
5. Hand Habits – “Placeholder”
6. Jocelyn & Chris Arndt – “Outta My Head”
7. Prince Daddy and The Hyena – “Really?” [explicit]
8. The Abyssmals – “Death Row Messiah”
9. The Gibson Brothers – “Cool Drink of Water”
10. The Sea The Sea – “Bang Bang Bang”
Musician and promoter, Dryer/Super Dark Collective
Bobby Carlton, guitarist of the local indie band Dryer, is also one-fourth of Super Dark, a local arts collective that books some of the best indie, punk and experimental shows around, including the Super Dark Monday and Thursday series at Desperate Annie’s in Saratoga Springs. “Ultimate playlists are funny. They evolve and change depending on time of year, moods and overall outlook on life,” says Carlton. “In my current state of mind, here’s my list in no specific order. By the way, this list was a lot harder to make than I anticipated, only because of all the great songs I’d want on this list.”
1. DEVO – “Girl U Want”
2. Naughty by Nature – “Hip Hop Hooray”
3. Teenage Fanclub – “Everything Flows”
4. Dënver Dënver – “Los Adolescentes”
5. Kelly Clarkson – “Since U Been Gone”
6. Descendents – “I’m the One”
7. Superdrag – “Slot Machine/Phaser”
8. Public Enemy – “Louder Than a Bomb”
9. Taylor Swift – “Welcome to New York”
10. The English Beat – “Save It for Later”
Here’s a Spotify playlist of Carlton's picks plus other suggestions.
Singer-songwriter, aka Buggy Jive
The soul-rock musician known as Professor Buggy Jive has a fixation with the moon lately. He made us a “Moon Mixtape” of some of his favorite songs that mention the luminous orb, which is heavy on Prince and the moon-obsessed Joni Mitchell. Catch Buggy Jive at the Bob Dylan 78th birthday benefit at the Low Beat in Albany on May 23 and check out his latest short film, “How to Write ‘Another Song About the Moon,’” at buggyjive.com/moon.
1. Joni Mitchell – “The Jungle Line”
Brilliantly beautiful and disturbing mashup of art and the African Diaspora. Joni has no fewer than 31 songs that mention the moon.
2. Prince – “Old Friends 4 Sale”
An outtake from the “Under the Cherry Moon” sessions; the moon reference was not in the original, more scathing version. Minor key beautiful blues waltz.
3. Joni Mitchell – “Hejira”
Gorgeous, wistful, perfect.
4. Prince – “Reflections”
Listening to this feels like eavesdropping.
5. Joni Mitchell – “Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow”
Tortured conversation set to Wilton Felder’s fluid and funky bass line. The DNA of Prince’s “Ballad of Dorothy Parker.”
6. Prince – “Lady Cab Driver”
This is not your Joni’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” Adventurous, disturbing, funky. FONKY.
7. Bob Dylan – “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”
“The handmade blade, the child’s balloon, eclipses both the sun and moon.” Pulitzer, y’all.
8. Kendrick Lamar – “The Blacker the Berry”
“I’m black as the moon, heritage of a small village, pardon my residence.” Pulitzer, y’all.
9. Cécile McLorin Salvan – “Moon Song”
She said she’d been working on this song for years, and finally completed it just before a stunning debut at the Troy Music Hall with the Monterey Jazz Festival touring band. Worth the wait.
10. Elrod + MotherJudge – “Moonsong”
I saved the best for last. Written by my fierce and sweet homegirl Caroline “Motherjudge” Isachsen with her songwriting partner Mitch Elrod. Just gorgeous. I miss her a little more every day.
Jeff and Shannon Smith
Albany’s Cacophone Records, run by brothers Jeff and Kip Smith, have been cranking out garage punk, rockabilly, pop, punk and more since 1994, with a focus on vinyl records. Their latest releases include a best-of from local hard-rockers the Erotics and reissues of Albany ‘80s punk band Capital and legendary garage rock band 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Label head Jeff Smith and his wife Shannon put together this list based on their current YouTube video favorites. “YouTube has brought back the heydays of MTV, when they used to show actual music videos,” says Smith. “Shannon, the kids and I are loving watching these! It’s a pretty eclectic list.”
1. The Dirtbombs – “Ever Lovin’ Man” (Live at Amoeba)
Live at Amoeba Records, the legendary L.A. record store, you can only hear this one on YouTube. This is the definition of hi-energy rock’n’roll, and why we love garage punk!
2. Die Antwoord – “Fatty Boom Boom”
South African rap/rave combo. Not our usual jam, but this video and song are nuts. Be forewarned, you’ll get sucked into the Die Antwoord blackhole of videos. They are all visually arresting and like watching a train wreck.
3. A Giant Dog – “Angst in My Pants” (@ FFFFest ’15)
A Giant Dog is one of our biggest obsessions over the last few years. This is a live radio version of a Sparks cover (a favorite ‘80s band of ours). This Austin band needs to be way more famous than they are!
4. The Regrettes – “Hey Now”
Lead singer Lydia Night is so amazingly talented. And this video is one of the most fun we’ve seen on YouTube. If you’re a fan of “Hairspray,” you need to watch this.
5. Andre Williams – “The Greasy Chicken”
This is one of those YouTube videos where you only see the original record label, so it’s not exciting, but Andre passed away recently, and he’s one of our all-time faves. This also shows how you can find anything on YouTube, no matter how rare!
6. The Nude Party – “Chevrolet Van”
This band is up-and-comers. They are awesome! Go see ‘em live after checking out this super catchy song and silly video. They’re living our dream, and we’re the jerks in the video.
7. The Pointer Sisters – “Fairytale” (live on an unnamed TV show)
When most of us think of the Pointer Sisters, we don’t think of country music, but this is a killer country track that they wrote and performed. Their voices are incredible, and the lyrics are fantastic if you’ve ever been through a rough break-up with someone.
8. The Mystery Lights – “Lovin Machine” (live on KXLU)
Retro band from Brooklyn. They sound straight out of the ‘60s. Another high-energy garage rock video.
9. Mac Miller – “Best Day Ever”
Another person who sadly passed away recently. Shannon gets really sad when we watch this because of the message of this video and how it conflicts with his eventual suicide. Great song and video that left behind a positive legacy, nonetheless.
10. A Tribe Called Quest – “We The People....” (lyric video)
You have to watch the lyric version of this video. The lyrics are insanely relevant to the world we currently live in. We watch this whenever current events get us down, and it cheers us up. Tribe Called Quest is still relevant and making great music all these years later.
Jazz music director, Hudson Mohawk Radio Network
“I’ve always been a radio girl, tuning into my favorite DJs, going where they led,” says Susan Brink, jazz music director for Jazz Sanctuary on the Hudson Mohawk Radio Network. “In a world with so many choices, I’m happy to let someone else set the groove, hearing music I might not have discovered on my own. Jazz is best heard live, and luckily, we have wonderful venues here in the 518.” Listen to the Jazz Sanctuary at WOOC 105.3 FM Troy and WOOS 98.9 FM Schenectady or online at mediasanctuary.org.
1. Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra – “Stand”
2. Les McCann & Eddie Harris – “Compared to What”
3. John Coltrane – “My Favorite Things”
4. Charles Mingus – “Original Fabus Fables”
5. Allen Toussaint – “Skydiving”
6. Kate McGarry, Keith Ganz, Gary Versace – “My Funny Valentine”
7. David Murray – “Jes’ Grew”
8. Jane Bunnett & Maqueque – “Dream”
9. Rez Abbasi Trio – “Star Spangled Banner”
10. Jaimeo Brown – “Power of God”
The best mixtapes create a mood, as ambient music artist Sara Ayers knows. A recent winner of a Capital Region Thomas Edison Music Award at Proctors for electronica artist of the year, Ayers made us an eclectic mix of music resonating with her lately, from Canadian darkwave to Finnish folk. The vocalist-composer recently released a new album of atmospheric electronica, “Leaving the Land of Before.”
1. Rhea’s Obsession – “Momento Mori”
2. Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq – “You’ve Got to Run (Spirit of the Wind)”
3. Tori Amos – “Raspberry Swirl”
4. Fever Ray – “When I Grow Up”
5. Anna Von Hausswolff – “Funeral for My Future Children”
6. Bat for Lashes – “Bat’s Mouth”
7. Nan Vernon – “The Big Picture”
8. Laurie Anderson – “One White Whale”
9. Sari Kaasinen & Otawa – “Murhe”
10. Haale – “Chenan Mastam”
Musician, Bear Grass
Singer-songwriter Katie Hammon grew up on a small island in Washington State’s Puget Sound but later relocated to the Capital Region, where she writes and performs under the name Bear Grass. Hammon’s Pacific Northwest roots shape the subtly dark, captivating and melodic music of Bear Grass, now a Troy-based quartet. That’s also an apt description for Hammon’s playlist, which mixes all-time favorites with more recent finds and local tunes. Catch the group on June 11 at a free lunchtime concert in Saratoga Springs at Ben & Jerry’s.
1. Laura Veirs – “Galaxies”
2. Majical Cloudz – “Silver Crash”
3. The Firs – “Smoke Thin”
4. Dark Dark Dark – “Wild Goose Chase”
5. Big Thief – “Masterpiece”
6. Noah Gundersen – “Blossom”
7. Pedro The Lion – “Bad Diary Days”
8. Burly – “Happy Birthday 2001”
9. Timber Timbre – “Hot Dreams”
10. Dr. Dog – “The Old Days”
DJ and musician, aka DJ Jennifer Haley
A DJ since 1995, Jennifer Coleman knows how to make an ultimate playlist. “Here’s a mix of current favs and formative oldies that are and were influential in my songwriting and on my tastes as a DJ,” she says. “Most classics by Joy Division, New Order, The Cure, Sonic Youth and The Smiths are a given, so I’m skipping all that for the purposes of this list.” Catch Coleman’s synth-rock band Haley Moley at the Sinclair in Saratoga Springs on May 21.
1. True Widow – “F.WT.S.L.T.M.”
I randomly heard a song by this Texas “doomgaze” band on WRPI one night last fall and have been obsessing over them ever since. Features huge, surprising melodies by bassist/vocalist Nicole Estill.
2. Actors – “P.T.L. (Post Traumatic Love)”
I stumbled on this synth-y Vancouver band via this song recently and am now suffering terribly from “I wish I’d written it” syndrome.
3. Chemical Brothers – “Free Yourself (Paranoid London Remix)”
A nod to my 24 years of DJing house and techno. This is one of my top dance tracks of the past year or so. Love the super kinetic rhythm and goose bump-inducing slow build.
4. Jenny Besetzt – “Black as the Night”
Boy are we lucky that Super Dark Collective manages to book these great bands locally on their way to the big time. Saw them for free at a Super Dark Monday, and they’re overwhelmingly good.
5. Gang of Four – “Damaged Goods”
Perfect, tight, tense, punky song that is the right pace for your running playlist.
6. Sinkcharmer – “Surround Yrself”
My Haley Moley bandmate Paul Coleman’s solo project. I may be married to this guy, but I’m also a very critical super-fan, and this is by far his best work in recent years. He is handy with a looping pedal and gadgets.
7. Donny Iris – “Ah! Leah!”
A song that I’ve sung along with at the top of my lungs since childhood. It definitely informed my taste for songs built around intense, libidinous longing.
8. Mike Jones, Slim Thug, Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’”
This might be the hip hop song I could most successfully Karaoke. Also, the beat and the spare violin riff were way ahead of their time.
9. Moby – “Next Is the E -Synthe Mix”
One of the first records in my crate and it’s still there. Atmospheric and funky and transcendent.
10. Cocteau Twins – “Carolyn’s Fingers”
Probably my favorite all-time band, the soundtrack to my teens and twenties. Elisabeth Fraser’s use of incomprehensible lyrics renders them universally understandable on a purely emotional level and is perfectly executed genius.
Here’s the YouTube playlist of Coleman's picks.
Director of Leadership Activities, Skidmore College
Robin Adams works with Skidmore College clubs and organizations to bring all kinds of entertainment, art and educational events to campus. Adams cites performances by Yaeji and Jamila Woods, who played at the college in the fall, as recent favorites. “I like concerts where it’s clear the band — or at least the singer — are enjoying themselves,” he says. “Terry Hall of the Specials and Liam Gallagher of Oasis are probably the only exceptions to this rule.”
1. The Specials – “We Sell Hope”
From their first proper album in 40 years. I stand by the fact that they are one of the most important bands of all time, with equal weight on music and social justice. This song is gorgeous.
2. Joe Strummer – “Get Down Moses”
I belatedly got into solo Joe Strummer world and sometimes that makes me sad. This is a great dubbed-out rocker.
3. Lizzo – “Good as Hell”
This song makes me feel good. Lizzo makes me feel good. If I had hair, I’d toss it. If I had nails, I’d check them. Pop this on to get in a good mood.
4. Timi Yuro – “Interlude”
This song is too much. There’s a long out-of-print version of this by Morrissey and Siouxsie Sioux that is also too much, but as I understand it, this is the original. It’s very dramatic but I enjoy it. Pop this on to not get in a good mood.
5. Tracy Thorn – “Dancefloor”
It’s dance music for the olds and that’s ok.
6. Yaeji – “Raingurl”
This is dance music for the olds too, but the non-olds dig it too! Yaeji played at Skidmore this past fall and put on a great show and also were completely delightful. This song won’t leave your head anytime soon.
7. REM – “Bad Day”
There’s this whole world of post “Automatic for The People” REM that I never paid enough attention to. I heard this one recently and started listening to the later years. They were still good! This one is a foot-stomping sing-along.
8. Beautiful South – “Prettiest Eyes”
I love melodrama, and I love a love song. This is a perfect melodramatic love song by one of my favorite groups of all time.
9. Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie – “The Sunny Side of the Street”
My favorite show of all time is “Frasier,” and there’s a great episode in which Martin Crane dreams he doesn’t need a cane anymore and performs a whole Busby Berkeley bit with this song. It gives me joy.
10. Benjamin Schoos and Laetetia Sadier – “Une Dernière Danse”
I know what I like, and I like this. Fun keyboards and I love her voice. Another earworm kind of a song that I find myself humming in curious places.
Musician, The Parlor
After releasing their album “Kiku” in April of 2018, Altamont’s The Parlor toured around the country until January 2019, when the art-pop duo holed up in the studio to write and record the film score for the indie horror film “Something Else,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 26. They also just released a lush new Cubist music video for the song “Trust” from “Kiku,” in celebration of that album’s first birthday. Watch the video online at https://youtu.be/xLP76VuFYHI and keep an ear out for new music this summer, says Jen O’Connor, who gave us her Top 10 list.
1. Broadcast – “I Found the F”
I was hooked on Broadcast all winter, both Tender Buttons + Haha Sound. Trish Keenan literally gave her life for her music, dying from tour-acquired swine flu.
2. The Beatles – “I’m Only Sleeping”
I first heard this song thanks to a pickup-truck driving, cowboy boot wearing rebel boyfriend I had when I was 16. But the best thing he ever did was make me an actual mix tape, and this song was on it. It’s been on almost every playlist I’ve made ever since.
3. Warpaint – “Drive”
When I was a little girl, there weren’t a lot of all-female bands. The Go-Gos and The Bangles were all I got, but I didn’t understand why they were trying to be cutesy; it felt inauthentic to me. If Warpaint had been around when I was seven, I think I would have felt more empowered.
4. The Church – “Under the Milky Way”
There are a couple of songs on this playlist that were on my favorite mix tape I ever made, and this is one of them.
5. Mazzy Star – “Fade Into You”
This is another. Sigh.
6. Led Zeppelin – “Tangerine”
When Eric and I were on tour once, we drove past a place in Arizona called Tangerine. Driving through the Sonoran Desert listening to “Zeppelin III” is a favorite tour memory.
7. Beach House – “Myth”
As a band we’ve been inspired by Beach House’s two-member status. We used to perform with five or more people. When Eric and I were trying to figure out if paring down was possible we gained confidence and comfort from Beach House.
8. Radiohead – “Climbing Up the Walls”
I’d only heard a few Radiohead songs before I went to college in the late ‘90s. Then I met Eric. “OK Computer” is the soundtrack to that time.
9. The Velvet Underground – “I’ll Be Your Mirror”
Eric and I, along with a couple of friends, had a Velvet Underground inspired band we called The Poly Overground. We only existed for one night. I channeled Nico and he channeled Lou Reed.
10. Pixies – “Gigantic”
Eric and I met at UMass and used to make regular pilgrimages to the dorm where the Pixies got their start. We ruminated on what it must have been like when Black Francis and Joey Santiago used to hike up and down the same hills. Also, I adore Kim Deal.
O'Connor's playlist on Spotify.