Revisiting a Mix Tape I Made Freshman Year of High School

Every year since 2005, I’ve made my friend Kendall a mix tape.

I do not recall what prompted the tradition, other than we constantly shared Pure Volume and MySpace links with each other and making a tape felt like a decidedly “cool” endeavor to take on.

Brand New’s “Mix Tape” was probably another strong motivator.

Kendall, being the great friend that she is, has kept all of these tapes over the years. They have become a hub connecting the adolescent spokes of nocturnal suburban driving, discovering the intoxicating effects of music, and navigating the bends toward adulthood.

Or that’s what I tell myself. Let’s see what happens if I force myself to listen back to my first mix tape.

Freshman Year: Kyle’s Mix Tape of Love

Even though you can’t see it on my (awesome) photo, Kyle’s Mix Tape of Love is unfortunately the real title of the mix.

I can only chalk it up something between a weird attempt at flirting and a byproduct of the scene kid culture festering on Xanga circa 2005.

freshman year mix tape

At first pass, this is not too far off from something I’d listen to on a road trip with friends (with a few serious exceptions). It’s not nearly as cringe-worthy as I was afraid of considering some of the truly iffy stuff I was into at age 15.

Brand New – “Mix Tape”

“This is the first song for your mix tape…”

We both loved the shit out of Brand New and when you’re 15 there’s no such thing as subtlety.

Cursive – “The Recluse”

I still love this tune.

I finally saw Cursive this year at the Sinclair with Beach Slang and “The Recluse” was one of the highlights of their set for me. So far, so good.

Queens of the Stone Age – “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret”

I fucking fell in love with Songs for the Deaf when my friend Jake showed it to me on a trip up to the Poconos. My interest in QOTSA grew and I checked out Rated R after convincing my mom the title of the album wasn’t representative of its contents.

If I made the tape today I might choose “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” or “In The Fade” from R, but I like how “Lost Art” sounds like the theme song for a detective TV show.

Death from Above 1979 – “Black History Month”

You know, for all the shit I have given Alternative Press, it introduced me to some legitimately great bands. I think You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine was reviewed in the first copy of Alt Press I ever bought (the one with Brand New in white suits on the front).

The idea of a band consisting only of a bassist and a drummer just floored me and tipped me off to bands like Lightning Bolt.

They’re probably not a band I’d put on a mix today, but You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine still rips.

TV on the Radio – “Staring at the Sun”

I picked Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes up at the Horsham Library because I liked everything about it: the album art, the title, the name of the band. The pulsing bass in this song was like nothing I’d heard before and I thought the vocals were stunning.

The Weakerthans – “Benediction”

I will love The Weakerthans forever and always.

Still, part of me thinks “this one?” when I consider the inclusion of “Benediction.” Today I’d put on “Plea…” or “One Great City!” from Reconstruction Site. Or “Reconstruction Site” or “Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call” or…

Sunday’s Best – “The Salt Mines of Santa Monica”

I think I started listening to Sunday’s Best after they were listed as a related to artist to Jimmy Eat World or something on All Music. Pretty standard sunshine, windows down, open road ahead kind of pop-emo band.

Fun fact: their songs were featured several times on the soundtrack of MTV’s (way ahead of its time) Clone High.

UnderOath- “I’ve Got 10 Friends and a Crowbar That Says You Ain’t Gonna Do Jack”

For reasons I still don’t fully understand, we used to adore UnderOath. I think it was the energy of the shows.

My very first concert was the original Taste of Chaos tour where UnderOath opened for My Chemical Romance, The Used, Senses Fail, and Killswitch Engage at the Tweeter Center in Camden, NJ.

On that day, February 25, 2005, Camden, NJ was the Mecca of mall emo:

tweeter center nj


After that we saw them every chance we could get in Philly, always walking out of the venue looking like we just stepped out of a swimming pool.

Listening to anything by UnderOath is basically impossible now. I disavow it all.

Damien Rice – “Cheers Darlin'”

I recognize that Damien Rice fed generously into my brooding tendencies, but gosh this song just plods along in sticky solipsism. I remember being really impressed with the crescendo at 4:02. Lisa Hannigan still sounds great.

I still enjoy certain Damien Rice tunes from time to time, but I would never play “Cheers Darlin'” for any reason.

Aside: I think this may have been the first time I liked a record that Pitchfork hated and I wasn’t sure how to reconcile that.

Kevin Devine – “Probably” (Beer: The Movie Version)

[can’t find recorded version, but this is close enough]

Wow, I completely forgot about the Beer: The Movie soundtrack Triple Crown Records put out and how stacked it was (Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, Crime in Stereo, The Movielife, Hot Rod Circuit, Kevin Devine, Northstar…).

The only reason I bought the soundtrack was because it came with the old Brand New Your Favorite Weapon-era Tour DVD, which you can view here in its entire splendor (which, in turn, is how I was introduced to Red House Painters).

Fun fact about Beer: The Movie: it was directed by Peter Hoare of “And when I pass the bottle back to Pete tonight on the overpass tonight I bet we’ll laugh” fame.

It is described as “A group of people tell raunchy jokes and try to out do the Jackass series on a budget.”

I have not seen it.

This is nowhere near Kevin’s best output and I usually skip it.

The Arcade Fire – “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”

Funeral remains fantastic, nothing else to say here.

I’m pretty sure this is another band I found out about through Alternative Press. Thanks, AP.

Far From Done – “Peaking Through the Red”

Born in my hometown of Horsham, PA, Far From Done was the first band that I had friends in, which I thought was very cool.

I remember them playing a house show (i.e. someone’s parents let them play in the backyard) and they covered “A Decade Under the Influence.” Their bassist, Dean Russel, was ruthlessly mocked by his friends for being in an emo band, while they listened to much cooler music, like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Incubus.

Sadly, this Pure Volume embed is all that remains, though rumors of a rare band documentary abound…

The Good Life – “A New Friend”

Another Kasher pick.

I used to really love Album of the Year, a product of Kendall introducing me to Saddle Creek via Bright Eyes and a glowing AP review.

It’s not a bad track, but it shares many of the same pitfalls as “Cheers Darlin” while being marginally more lyrically interesting.

I find it somewhat embarrassing that despite not having experienced anything even remotely close to heartbreak at 15, these “scored ex-boyfriend” songs still resonated with me so much.

Cue Rob Gordon…

Kevin Devine – “Cotton Crush”

I find it hilarious that I gave Jesse Lacey a feature on this track list, but truthfully his backing vocals on this song were the only reason I checked out Kevin Devine in the first place.

I still love “Cotton Crush” and to bring everything full circle, I got to see Jesse accompany Kevin on it during the string of 10 year anniversary shows he played for The Circle Gets the Square.

Weezer – “Getchoo”

Pinkerton was an essential high school record for Kendall and me. When we used to get to shows early and wait in line, I’d attempt to strike up conversation with the kids next to us by asking if they like Pinkerton. It worked a surprising amount of the time.

Modest Mouse – “Bankrupt on Selling”

I remember finding “sandals with the style of the strap that clings best to the era” such an impressive lyric. If I were to guess, I probably did some hand wringing over whether to include “Bankrupt on Selling,” “Trailer Trash,” and “Polar Opposites” on the tape.

Sad Modest Mouse is the best Modest Mouse.

Final Thoughts

That wasn’t as bad I was expecting.

  • Jeff

    That show for FFD was at Tustin’s house and I was just thinking about that the other day since he recently moved out of that house. Funny randomly stumbling upon this article – Krizz (in a Johnny-P like voice from the bothwell baseball era)