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Critics' Choice
CAN’T LET GO: MY ENDURING
MIXTAPE OBSESSION
1/4/22

By Bud Scoppa

For some of us, making lists of the movies, TV series, books and records that capture our attention is more than a pastime—it’s an addictive way of expressing ourselves through our taste.

In that sense, my interactive relationship with music has changed very little over the years. As soon as I got my first Sony stereo cassette deck in the early ’70s, I began assembling mixtapes of songs that grabbed me. I was obsessive about this activity, spending hours meticulously transferring tracks from vinyl albums to tape, giving each compilation a title and decorating each J-card with ink and highlighters. The fact that I knew and often worked with the musicians whose music I was compiling made the process that much more intimately involving.

A few months back, my vinyl-collecting grandson’s purchase of a Walkman inspired me to dust off a bunch of the scores of cassettes in my garage, buy a new tape deck and revisit them. Some of them still sound surprisingly good and bring the memories flooding back.

With the advent of iTunes in the early aughts, the process became much less labor-intensive, as I made playlists, burned them onto CDs and gave them to friends. Now, it’s practically effortless to make and share playlists, thanks to Spotify.

Even so, a part of me is still drawn to collecting what’s now referred to, inelegantly, as “physical product,” and admiring those increasingly uncommon bands and artists whose ambition leads them to create coherent albums. In 2021, there were five LPs that conjured worlds I wanted to explore from one end to the other—records that magically compressed the distance the 1970s and the 2020s for me: The War on DrugsI Don’t Live Here Anymore, Big Red Machine’s How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night SweatsThe Future, Robert Plant & Alison KraussRaise the Roof and Kings of Leon’s unexpected return to peak form, When You See Yourself. Haven’t spent enough time with Lindsey Buckingham’s self-titled LP yet, but from the echoes of Tusk and and Out of the Cradle in the delectably twisted tracks I’ve sampled, I suspect it’ll make the cut as well.

Diving deeper, I also found the box set Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal—containing renditions of 41 songs from the discography of the last artist I signed during my years at Zoo Entertainment—to be a consistently moving tribute to this gifted, sensitive artist, who died in 2019. And Tom Petty’s Finding Wildflowers (Alternate Versions) hits me just as hard. Can’t believe those guys are gone.

All of the above and more are represented on—what else?—a playlist of my go-to tracks released in 2021.

 

THE MOST-STREAMED SONGS OF THE YEAR
You know it's not the same as it was. (12/1a)
A JOLLY TOP 20
Republic is glowing in holiday cheer. (12/1a)
2022 (NEARLY) FINAL MARKETSHARE
IGA and Republic are on top. (11/30a)
THE BIGGEST ALBUMS OF 2022
A Bunny, a Taylor and a Morgan walk into a bar... (11/30a)
SONG REVENUE:
XMAS IS COMING
It's the most wonderful time of the year. (12/1a)
GRAMMY SEASON
Artists sound off on the prospect of being nominated
CATALOG ECONOMICS
They're changing the game... for some.
VOTING AGAINST FASCISM
You're helping with the runoff, right?
IS IT CHRISTMAS YET?
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